The Owls, managed by former player Gary Megson recorded a 3-1 victory over local rivals Chesterfield to jump to second in the league table and five points ahead of United – though the Blades boast a one game in hand advantage.
The Hillsborough side went ahead on 17th minute through defender Lewis Buxton when he met Ben Marshall’s right wing corner to head home in front of a bumper 24,514 crowed. After the break Wednesday found themselves two goals to the good when the league’s top scorer Gary Madine (59) fired low past Greg Fleming to notch his tenth of the season.
The Spirites pulled one back through former Owl Leon Clarke (79) but were unable to find a leveller. With three minutes remaining Ben Marshall made it safe.
It is often said that the form book goes out of the window as far as derbies are concerned but it is surely better that the Owls go into the first steel city clash of the season in their current form than they way they were a month ago.
A 5-1 defeat at Stevenage Borough in mid-September left the Owls in mid-table with just 1 point from 4 away games. Since then Wednesday have won four in a row, two away and two at Hillsborough where they have won six out of six this season.
Wednesday is likely to go to Bramall Lane with a compact midfield that has served them well in recent games. James O’Connor and Jose Semedo have provided solidity with Ben Marshall and Chris Lines looking to create.
Goalkeeper Stephen Bywater has conceded just one goal in three games since joining on loan from Derby County and has little to do thanks to the improved form of central defenders ex-Blade Danny Batth and Rob Jones. Lewis Buxton is likely to play at right-back and will be keen to erase the memory of his last visit to the Blades when his own goal helped the home side to a 3-2 victory. Reda Johnson missed Saturday’s victory over Chesterfield as he was on international duty and he will be competing with Julian Bennett for the left-back slot.
With Ryan Lowe struggling with an ankle injury he is unlikely to return in such a potentially heated fixture and so Chris O’Grady and David McGoldrick will compete for a place alongside League One’s top scorer Gary Madine. After a slow start to the season the former Carlisle front-man has really started to prove his worth with 10 goals in the last 9 league games.
Jermaine Johnson has recently returned from a 3-match ban and is likely to be on the bench. The Jamiacan winger is inconsistent but on his day has the pace and trickery to be a real threat to the opposition.
Critics have labelled Sheffield Wednesday as a long ball team under Gary Megson. The style is certainly more direct than has previously been the case but the Owls have the ability in midfield to be able to mix up their play and the full-backs, particularly Buxton, also provide attacking options. A feature of the Owls play that may lend itself towards them being viewed as a direct team is their ability to score from set pieces. They have plenty of height to attack the ball from set plays and the delivery that Marshall is able to provide creates numerous opportunities.
Prior to the recent good run of form Wednesday’s problems came from conceding early goals putting them on the back-foot. It will be interesting to see if they are now able to react positively if and when this happens again in the future.
Possible Owls Line-Up...
Buxton Batth Jones (c) Bennett
Lines O’Connor Semedo Marshall
We would like to thank Chris Morris (www.owls-mad.co.uk) for his help in this preview.