Jordan Rhodes has been challenged to build on his first goal of 2018 and start finding the back of the net on a more consistent basis.
The striker ended a 12-match run without a goal with his first since Boxing Day in Saturday’s battling victory over Yorkshire neighbours Hull City.
With Atdhe Nuhiu and Lucas Joao sidelined by injury, Rhodes was handed a rare start by boss Jos Luhukay at the KCOM Stadium and the 28-year-old repaid his faith by heading in an 18th minute winner after a lovely cross by Jack Hunt. It was only Rhodes’ seventh goal of a disappointing season.
Rhodes, a club-record £8m capture from Middlesbrough, has struggled for form and to hold down a regular starting berth since Luhukay’s surprise appointment.
But Luhukay was delighted to see the Scotland international get back on the scoresheet.
“It was a great moment for Jordan,” he told The Star. “Strikers live for goals and that good feeling.
“It is a big confidence boost for any striker when you score the winning goal, especially when you haven’t played for a long time.
“It was a very good goal and hopefully it will give Jordan that trust back.
“We hope the goal will give him confidence and he can kick on in the last few games.”
Rhodes has largely provided back-up to Nuhiu and Joao in recent months. Nuhiu, particularly, has been in superb form, hitting six goals in his last five Championship starts.
Luhukay acknowledged: “In the striking positions, Atdhe and Lucas have done well in the last two months. They have scored and made some very important goals.
“It was important Jordan scored and I must now look at the situation in the last three games at who is ready to play.”
Rhodes ran Hull’s defence ragged and was given a standing ovation by the away end when substituted with three minutes left.
Midfielder Joey Pelupessy said: “You see in training his finishes are great every time. I’m very happy that he’s made a great header. It was a good cross from Jack Hunt and it was a real striker’s goal.”
After a recovery session yesterday, Luhukay gave his Owls squad today off to rest and recuperate.
“The players need a little bit of rest afte five games in 14 days,” he said.
“We saw after the Queens Park Rangers game that the players were completely broken and I lost three players (to injury).
“After two intense weeks where we played five games, we will see which players can recover and play on Saturday.
“We must look at which players are 100 per cent in the last three matches.”