Hillsborough, Saturday 30th August 2014, 12:15 Kick Off
- Sheffield Wednesday have been one of the early surprise packages of this Championship season sitting pretty in 6th place. Nottingham Forest, meanwhile, have gained 10 points out of the opening 12 available and, even though the season is young, their form is already looking ominous.
- The previous meeting at Hillsborough was a closely fought contest in which Simon Cox scored to send all three points back to the East Midlands.
- Despite all of the uncertainty regarding the prospected takeover of Wednesday, Stuart Gray remains upbeat about his team’s start to the campaign and the future of the Club. Stuart Pearce will be thrilled with all his injured stars returning as Henri Lansbury, Kelvin Wilson and David Vaughan are approaching full fitness.
Sheffield Wednesday have really been through the ringer in the last few years, on and off the pitch. Relegation to the third tier, ownership troubles and continuous battles with the drop to halt a swift return to League 1 have left the hefty Wednesday fanbase cursing their luck. However, things seem to have changed under Stuart Gray, who replaced Dave Jones in November last year after an atrocious start to the season. Following his appointment, the Club went on an 11 game unbeaten run which helped them to avoid relegation rather comfortably in the ended, finishing in 16th position, a remarkable achievement from Gray.
The positive start to this season has continued to fill Owls fans with hope as they remain unbeaten with 2 wins and 2 draws from their opening 4 fixtures. Gray’s side look defensively solid whilst possessing the killer instinct needed to win games at this level. Striker, Atdhe Nuhiu, has begun the season in red hot goalscoring form whilst partner, Stevie May, whom was bought from St Johnstone earlier this window, showed everyone his ability to find the net last year in the SPL. A stubborn defence coupled with a potent strike force has given Wednesday the belief that they can challenge at the top end of the League this year, in contrast to those previous.
The Yorkshire Club have managed to keep their tight knit squad in tact whilst making some quality additions along the way, their future is really looking up and a return to the Premier League could be on the horizon in the next few years. However, I’m not too sure that they have enough to challenge this season, there are teams in the League with much more quality in their squads. Although this is not the only thing required to get promoted out of the Championship, I don’t believe that Wednesday have the depth to maintain a season long assault on the top 6.
Forest completely blew Reading away last week with a 4-0 domination on Trentside, with goals from the prolific trio, Matty Fryatt, Michael Antonio and Britt Assombalonga. Everything Stuart Pearce does, at the minute, turns to gold. On Saturday he decided to switch to a 4-5-1 formation following a tough first half, which resulted in an avalanche of goals and a much improved second half display. Even though they were up against an injury hit and sub-standard Reading team on the day, Forest’s form is exceeding the lofty expectations which is put upon them by fans and media.
In midweek the team travelled to the John Smith’s stadium to face manager-less Huddersfield Town. Despite making various changes before the game ‘Psycho’s’ men roared to victory with a strange own goal from Terrier James Vaughan and then a powerful 18 yard finish from the returning Henri Lansbury. The former England U21’s inclusion in a matchday squad for the first time this season will have given Reds fans even more excitement coming into the game at Hillsborough on Saturday. The depth in the squad is as good as it’s been since the Club’s return to the second tier in 2008 and fans will be looking forward to a positive season.
Pearce has to contend with a real serious selection headache for this fixture, with his squad finally approaching its full strength. In defence, Jack Hobbs, Michael Mancienne and Jamaal Lascelles with all be vying for a place in the 11 but with 1 of the 3 inevitably missing out. The situation is pretty similar in the centre of the park with Robert Tesche, Chris Cohen, Andy Reid and Lansbury all competing for the 2 spots at the heart of the team. The front 2, however, is pretty ‘set in stone’ as Assombalonga and Fryatt have gelled well as a partnership with Chris Burke and ex-Owl Antonio providing their ammunition.
Can Wednesday enter the international break undefeated and give the rest of the Championship a wake up call to their presence? Or will Forest cement their position at the top of the pile before their huge clash with rivals Derby County? I think it’ll be a close game with very little separating the two teams, therefore, I’m going to sit on the fence and go for a 1-1 stalemate.