What Garry Monk said about Tom Lees and the Sheffield Wednesday defence ahead of clash with Derby County

While Steven Fletcher hogged the headlines after scoring a dramatic injury time winner against Charlton Athletic on Wednesday night, it was a clean sheet that gave Garry Monk almost as much joy.

Friday, 28th February 2020, 5:15 pm

The Owls have conceded far too many in recent months and the backline has been switched regularly through form, formation and injury.

But, a solid performance in the centre of defence from Tom Lees was lauded against the Addicks, particularly as the skipper has struggled to reach his best for large parts of the season.

Monk was among those hailing Lees who made a stunning block late in the game, before Fletcher came up with the goods and grabbed all three points for the Owls. “It was huge,” said the boss.

Sign up to our Sheffield Wednesday newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Now, alongside Julian Borner, the 29-year-old has the opportunity to really nail down his place again in the side, with Dominic Iorfa breathing down his neck having himself been dropped on Wednesday.

“I said to all the team, those three centre halfs - Tom, Julian and Dom, maybe the first time it's been a real competition and a really close one,” Monk said.

“All three have had their ups and downs and what you are looking for is that consistency in that performance, that consistency and leadership, especially in those positions.

“Number one for me, defenders are defenders. They are there to defend, that's their number one objective. Everything else after that is a bonus.”

Tom Lees and Julian Borner were the chosen central defensive pairing against Charlton on Wednesday night. Pic Steve Ellis

“All three have had up and down and misfortunes in terms of injuries or whatever it may be.

“The times they have come out of the team, it's always an opportunity for the next one comes in, whichever that two is, or sometimes it's three. Whoever has that shirt, it's their responsibility to keep it.”

Monk also reiterated his often repeated mantra that while he picks the team for any given game, it’s the players and their performances that decide who is in it.

You would expect then that not much will change at the back, both in terms of formation and personnel when Wayne Rooney and Derby County head to Hillsborough on Saturday.

“Players only come out (of the team) because of the player himself, it's not me as the manager,” he added. “Sometimes you have to make a tactical decision or decision on things outside of the football in terms of freshness and all those things.

“The majority of the time it's the players, the players dictate your decisions by their performances and their levels and consistency they are doing it at, so those three have been in heavy competition.

“For me that's what I want, that healthy competition. At the moment, in that last game it was Julian and Tom and it's up to those two to maintain what they're doing and for Dom to fight back as the others have fought back already this season.”