Sheffield Wednesday: Hard-working Owls face fight to seal play-off spot

Keiren Westwood
Keiren Westwood
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The battle at the top end of the Championship is intensifying.

With a dozen matches remaining, Sheffield Wednesday occupy the final play-off position but will be nervously ominously over their shoulder following back-to-back defeats.

Carlos Carvalhal

Carlos Carvalhal

The chasing pack could have cranked up even more pressure on the Owls over the weekend but Fulham and Norwich City, who head to Hillsborough on Saturday, only drew with Cardiff City and Ipswich Town respectively.

Preston North End boosted their hopes of making a late charge by seeing off Queens Park Rangers 2-1 and will head to Fulham on Saturday still believing they can catch Wednesday and the rest of the top six.

Who will hold their nerve at the business end of the campaign?

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Jordan Rhodes

Jordan Rhodes

Despite slipping up against Brentford and Leeds United, the Owls remain in control of their fate. They have a five point cushion within the play-off zone, although Fulham boast a game in hand. There is no reason to panic just yet.

As head coach Carlos Carvalhal acknowledged post-match at Elland Road, March is a “crucial” month in their attempts to secure a top six finish for the second year on the spin.

A good run of results is pivotal, with three of their four outings before the next international break taking place at Hillsborough. Norwich, Burton Albion and Reading head to South Yorkshire and a trip to under-achieving Aston Villa is sandwiched in between.

Goalkeeper Keiren Westwood said: “There are a lot of good teams in this league and plenty of games left. Anyone can go on a run.”

Wednesday were not outclassed at Elland Road. Far from it. Leeds edged the Yorkshire derby by the finest of margins following a 24th minute strike by top-scorer Chris Wood.

Clear-cut chances were at a premium but Robert Green produced a smart save to keep out a second half Jordan Rhodes penalty as the Whites claimed their first double over the Owls in 17 years.

“Nobody in our dressing room is ever allowed to get ahead of themselves and think that they are a Big Time Charlie,” said Westwood.

“We are grafters. If someone makes a mistake, we try to rectify it as a team.

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“We are a hard working team and that’s what we will be until the end of the season. We enjoy playing together and are desperate to do well for each other and I think that shows on the pitch.

“Collectively we are a good side and we have that individual quality which shines. We have matchwinners but we can do the ugly side as well.”

Wednesday are confident of a strong finish and key performers, including Tom Lees and Gary Hooper, are close to making comebacks.

“We are getting players back; we are a strong outfit and I don’t think any team will relish playing us,” insisted Westwood. “We will give anyone a tough game.”

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