Sheffield Wednesday will go into battle against one of the Championship’s form sides this weekend without one of their frontline soldiers.
Jose Semedo is ruled out of the trip to Blackburn Rovers due to suspension, with the Portuguese star having chalked up his fifth booking of the season in Saturday’s crucial win over Wigan Athletic. His absence leaves a gaping hole in the middle of the park.
With Sam Hutchinson and Giles Coke sidelined by injury, Owls head coach Stuart Gray is short of experienced options in the centre.
Wednesday boast one of the meanest defences in the division and Semedo’s played a key part in the side recording nine clean sheets in 19 Championship fixtures. He offers another layer of protection to the back four by breaking attacks up and keeping things nice and simple in possession.
Gray told The Star: “Semi has done well. We have two attack minded full-backs who want to get forward and he tends to drop in and fill in for them.
“Semi gives 100 per cent for the cause. You can’t fault his effort and commitment. He’s a team player. His attitude is spot on Monday to Friday and he takes it through to the game on a Saturday so credit to him.”
Partnerships are a big thing in football and Gray wants, whatever combination he chooses to go with in midfield on Saturday, to work together as a unit.
“You’ve got to have the right balance,” he stressed. “I call them soldiers and artists.
“I would class Semi, not in an unpleasant way, as a soldier. You know what you are going to get with Semi. He wins it and gives it.
“It might be a shared role in midfield against Blackburn. Whereas usually we want Lewis McGugan to play in the opposition’s half, he might have to do that but balance off his mate who is going to play alongside him. It’s sharing the workload rather than delegating it to one person.”
Semedo came within a whisker of grabbing his first Owls goal in over three years versus Wigan. In a rare foray forward, the 29-year-old hit a low shot from just outside the penalty area which struck the left-hand upright.
Gray said: “Semi broke forward from that defensive shape and I’ve got no problem with that. It’s reading situations and filling in for each other. It’s a shame for Semi he didn’t score as I’ve never seen his goal celebration!”
Kieran Lee, Jacques Maghoma and Jeremy Helan are the candidates in the running to replace Semedo. Lee featured in an hour of Monday’s development match against Huddersfield Town.
“Kieran [Lee] played and had no reaction so he comes into my thoughts for the weekend,” admitted Gray, who has confirmed Joe Mattock has resumed first-team training following an injury lay-off.
“I have played Jacques [Maghoma] in there and Jeremy [Helan] but, at the moment, the back four has been settled and done reasonably well.
“If we don’t get any problems between now and Saturday in training, I’ve got in my mind who I’m going to go with.”