MATCH REPORT: Sheffield Wednesday 0 Leicester 2

Fourth straight defeat Chris Kirkland saves the Owls ''pictures: steve ellis
Fourth straight defeat Chris Kirkland saves the Owls ''pictures: steve ellis
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NIGEL Pearson is backing Dave Jones to revive Wednesday’s fortunes.

The Owls’ 11th defeat in their last 15 league games has plunged them back into the bottom three.

But Leicester boss and ex-Hillsborough skipper Pearson rates Jones highly.

“The expectation this year would be for them to do a little bit better than they have done,” he says.

“But Dave is a very experienced manager and I’m sure he’ll pull it around; I think this year for them is about trying to get some sort of consolidation after last year’s promotion.”

Saturday’s setback was another hard lesson for the Championship new boys against a well-established, costlier, promotion-chasing outfit who dished up a thoroughly professional performance.

Wednesday did better against them than Ipswich, who had been slaughtered 6-0 the previous week, but not well enough to earn any points, and if anything the Owls took a step back because they did not even create the sort of chances they were making in earlier matches.

It was always hard to see where a goal was going to come from.

Just about the only opportunity carved out was a header that Martin Taylor sent over the bar in the 69th minute, when it was 1-0, from a free-kick by sub Chris Lines, whose comeback was a positive on a largely grim day for the Owls.

Mamady Sidibe gave it everything to little effect but allowances must be made because this was his first game in two years; he and Jay Bothroyd were up against two good centre-backs, Zak Whitbread and Wes Morgan.

None of the Owls forwards had much service, Michail Antiono and Jermaine Johnson were kept under control, and Leicester were superior in midfield and most areas.

It was also a baptism of fire for Jeremy Helan, up against Ben Marshall and in his first Championship game. Marshall cut inside the left-back before he scored, but he is always capable of doing that against anybody. All things considered, Helan made a decent debut.

Centre-halves Anthony Gardner and Taylor were reasonably sound as well, and left-winger Lloyd Dyer, who had ripped Ipswich apart and is said to have been playing the best football of his career, was kept relatively quiet. Lewis Buxton comes out with some credit.

But Leicester were the better side, controlling the game for large periods, impressive in their passing and movement, and possessing the nagging threat of striker Martyn Waghorn.

It was in midfield and going forward where Wednesday’s problems mostly lay, and Ross Barkley’s energy, quality on the ball and forward runs were missed.

The Owls did have a spell in each half where they passed the ball and briefly were Leicestester’s equal in that respect, but the Foxes worked hard to shut down the spaces and always stopped them from achieving penetration.

Leicester also looked the side most likely to score the important first goal, and midfielder Andy King headed a good chance wide before the breakthrough, which came when Danny Drinkwater played a one-two with Marshall and ran in behind Jose Semedo to score.

Marshall’s goal was a beauty, curled into the far corner with his left foot, from 19 yards: the signal for Wednesday to look a demoralised side and many of their fans to head for home because they knew there was no way back for their team. Waghorn hit the bar after that.

Jones was frank in his summing-up: “I think it’s the first time I’ve seen us outworked a bit.

“They’re a good side; their passing and movement were better than ours. We didn’t get our passing going. We were too long on the ball or passes were too slow.

“When that starts to happen, you rely on your solidness but we didn’t have that solidness because people were flying about all over the place trying to get the ball back, instead of doing it in a constructive manner.

“I felt there were too many people who weren’t on their game. Leicester probably won more personal battles than we did.”

On the debut-makers, he said: “Mama hasdn’t played for a while, so it was always going to be difficult for him; he got around 65 minutes under his belt; he’ll be better for that.

“I thought Jeremy did really well. the back four got their blocks in. In front of them, we didn’t really get going. We gave the ball away too much in good areas.

“They’re a good side. They stopped us from trying to play; when that happens, you get them turned by putting the ball in certain areas; sometimes we were just humping it forward. Going forward, we didn’t really create anything; were a bit lack-lustre in that department. That’s probably the first time we have seen that.”

Fans’ frustration was demonstrated by some boos at the final whistle.

Jones said: “We have to stick together. We will come up against teams who have better footballers than us, more knowledge, more stability at this level.

“The fans were good; they stuck with us [through the game]. I haven’t had a go at the players; I’ve just tried to educate them on what needs to be done.”

He welcomed the return of Lines: “He’s got into the fray.

“It was nice to see him back.”

Jones has to decide whether it is too early for Lines, back from a serious groin injury, to be thrust into the starting line-up against Watford tomorrow.