CHRIS Lines says that now is the ideal time for Wednesday to embark on a successful run.
The Owls face Stevenage tonight as the other four teams in the top six face each other.
Victory for Wednesday would eclipse last Saturday’s slip-up at Exeter and avenge a heavy defeat at Stevenage: then come the derbies against Chesterfield and United.
Lines, assessing the battle at the top end of the table, said: “Each team have had their own kind of run; Charlton have been pretty consistent all season. We have faltered a bit, but not really, because we’re still second.
“Sheffield United have won games and put themselves right back in the equation.
“Now would be the perfect time for us to go on a run, get as many wins as we can and push on.
“Stevenage is a massive game, and the way they beat us early in the season makes it an even bigger one.
“Chesterfield is a derby. Then we’ve got the massive one after that.
“If you can get three or four wins it does help, because not every team is going to win every week. It’s our chance to go out and do that.”
Lines is in contention for a recall tonight after being kept out of the League side recently and replacing John Bostock at half time of Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Exeter.
He has become the first player to talk publicly about that game, after Gary Megson’s strong crticism of the team.
Lines said: “I think maybe we got a bit complacent. They scored straight after we scored, which is never ideal away from home.
“If you get a goal you just want to steady the ship and keep the ball and hold out for the win, but they came back with a great free kick, and so was their second one.
“Our only penetration came through JJ’s pace with the ball.
“Their keeper did make a few saves in the first half and we had a spell of about 20 minutes; I was watching from the bench and I said to the lads we needed to score at that sort of time.
“We’ve sort of slipped up, but we’re still second. I don’t know what the panic’s about. If we’re still there for the rest of the season, we’re going into the Championship.
“There’s obviously going to be a bit of panic if you don’t get the results.
“We had a chance on Saturday to put a bigger gap between us and rivals. Now we have a massive game against Stevenage and we need to get back to the form we were showing three or four weeks ago.”
Lines believes that it can be harmful if a setback causes tension: “As a player, I think it’s a bit easier if you stay relaxed and get the job done.
“This is a massive club with a massive fan base. The expectation is probably higher than I’ve experienced before. That’s part of a footballer’s job: there’s expectation, no matter who you play for.
“There’s pressure on us to stay second or get to first. In each game we need to be fully focused; we might not have been on Saturday, I don’t know, I can’t really put my finger on it.
Lines watched as Stevenage overwhelmed the Owls in September: “I was on the bench. It was a mad start. They were strong, physical, and pretty much battered us for 20 minutes; everything they hit seemed to go in, as well. When it was 3-0 the game was pretty much over.
“We’ll go out there and our ability should come through. We have to beat them and hang on to that second position.”
Gary Megson admits that Gary Madine is not on top form: “He’s still a good player. Gary is going on a bit about Ben Marshall and the chances he created for him with his 12 goals. In reality there were only three; that’s no reason for not performing quite as well.
“The one we’ve missed most is James O’Connor. His rate of success was 91 per cent when he was in the team - fantastic. We need players who are still here to roll their sleeves up and have a right good go and it will come back to them. Gary will be focused on, because he was focused on when things were going really well for him; forwards are judged on goals but there are other things they can add to the team.”
Teams and ref
OWLS (possible): Bywater, Buxton, Batth, R Jones, Bennett, Bostock or M Jones, Prutton or Lines, Semedo, J Johnson, Madine, O’Grady. (4-4-2).
STEVENAGE (possible): Day, Henry, Roberts, Ashton, Laird, Wilson, Byrom, Bostwick, Charles, Freeman, Beardsley. (4-5-1).
Scott Mathieson (Cheshire): On the last two occasions when he has refereed the Owls, they have won, at Hillsborough: 2-1 against Colchester in April and 1-0 against Leyton Orient in November.
One to watch
Once described by Arsene Wenger as a “very interesting prospect”, Luke Freeman is a 19-year-old left winger or striker who has been a key man with his pace and assists, and has a scored three goals. He joined the Boro from Arsenal on loan in November and was signed fully in January. He began his career at Gillingham and was signed by the Gunners for £200,000 in January, 2008, but did not make a first-team appearance for them.