Steve Agnew on why defensive solidity will continue for Sheffield Wednesday despite ‘loss’ of Michael Hector’s absence against Chelsea

Sheffield Wednesday caretaker manager Steve Agnew is confident his team can withstand the threats of Chelsea’s attacking forces this weekend, despite admitting the absence of key man Michael Hector is a loss.

FA Cup competition rules prevent the Chelsea loanee from playing his parent club as Wednesday travel to Stamford Bridge in Sunday night’s glamour tie, but Agnew is confident the opportunity to step up will benefit another member of the Owls’ squad.

Owls ace Michael Hector has played 24 times this season

Owls ace Michael Hector has played 24 times this season

Speaking to press ahead of the match, the interim boss said that Hector had been integral in Wednesday’s defensive structure in recent weeks.

"It is a loss because Michael has done terrifically well both in that midfield area that he played at Luton and at centre-back,” he said.

“I have been really impressed with him.

"But as always in football, when one player misses out for whatever reason, it gives somebody else an opportunity.

"I have seen players that play in that position in training this week who have been very competitive and would like to play in the Chelsea game.”

One player in line to fill the gap in the Owls defence is Jordan Thorniley, who stood in alongside captain Tom Lees in the back four when Hector was pushed into a midfield role for the third round cup win over Luton Town at Kenilworth Road.

Agnew said: "He has done well has Jordan. He's a young, talented central defender who can play at left-back.

“He is committed, determined and strong. He was part of a team that kept a clean sheet at Luton so he comes into our thoughts.”

Dom Howson’s Sheffield Wednesday column: The selection dilemma facing Sheffield Wednesday caretaker boss Steve Agnew ahead of their FA Cup clash with Chelsea

There has been a marked improvement in Wednesday’s defensive solidity since the departure of Jos Luhukay and, despite the blip in form against Hull City, Agnew is confident it is an indication of things to come.

"When we came in and Lee took the team before over the Christmas period, the one thing that was obvious is the team were conceding too many goals.

"Any team that has success is based on a strong shape to the team and being organised and that is what we have tried to continue. 

"What we would like to now and will continue to do is work on the attacking side of the game to give players ideas of movements to create chances and score goals.

"I did feel against Wigan that we had opportunities to finish the game and could have gone two or three nil.

"We have seen improvement on the training ground and in last week's game against Wigan so let's hope we can score a few goals against Chelsea.”

As well as deciding on a defensive replacement Agnew and his coaching staff will also face the predicament of choosing who will start between the sticks in the Wednesday goal, with Cameron Dawson having played in all the cup matches so far but Keiren Westwood now preferred in league games.

On whether he had already made a decision, Agnew said: "No, not yet. We will have a meeting with the rest of the coaches. 

"We have an idea of what the team will be but in terms of the final selection that has not been done yet.”