Sheffield Wednesday will welcome back Jermaine Johnson from his three-match suspension for the trip to Middlesbrough this Saturday as they target their first win of the season.
The struggling Owls have sorely missed Johnson’s speed and creativity in their last three Championship fixtures with Burnley, Leeds United and Millwall following his red card against Rotherham United.
Jamaican international Johnson could be recalled to the starting line-up at the Riverside should Lewis Buxton not recover from his hamstring problem. Buxton was taken off at half-time last weekend, meaning Liam Palmer switched from right wing to full-back.
With Kieran Lee a long-term absentee, it is likely Palmer will be deployed at right-back if Buxton is ruled out. That would leave a vacancy in midfield and Johnson is bound to be a candidate for the role.
Buxton continues to be assessed by the club’s medical staff and Wednesday captain Anthony Gardner reckons injuries to key players, such as Buxton and Reda Johnson, have undermined their attempts to keep things tight at the back.
“Maybe that’s hurt us,” he admitted. “Millwall was Reda’s first start of the season and Lewis had to come off with a slight niggle.
“It’s not ideal because you would like a settled back four.”
Wednesday, who lie 20th in the standings, have shipped in nine goals in five outings during the 2013/14 campaign. Gardner thinks it is imperative the team improve their decision making.
“There have just been times in games where we have given away free kicks or given teams opportunities to put balls into our box,” he said. “We’ve made slight mistakes in not getting out to stop crosses coming in.
“It is unit based. It is not just about defences. It is about the midfielders winning second balls. We defend as a team. I’m not happy about not keeping clean sheets but we are trying to work on it all together.”
It is no secret Jones is looking to strengthen his squad before the transfer window closes next Monday. But the Wednesday boss has stressed that he must first reduce the club’s wage bill before bringing in further reinforcements. He has set his sights on capturing three players. A striker is thought to be top of Jones’ priority list and the club continue to be linked with Leroy Lita and Billy Sharp.
Gardner said: “I think if the manager has decided he needs to bring players in then he feels there is a lack of depth. We have to go out there and perform to the best of our abilities. He sets us up to go out there so if he feels he needs to bring in players I’m sure he will.”
Wednesday head to Middlesbrough this weekend for their final match before the two-week international break knowing 14th-placed Boro have yet to win on home soil this season.
Gardner said: “It is a big game for us now. It is important we get three points after the start we’ve had. We need to start getting some wins to move up the league. The quicker the better.”