DAVE JONES has called on his Sheffield Wednesday side to capitalise on a run-in that includes a host of fixtures against their relegation rivals.
The Owls went into the Easter weekend sitting fourth bottom of the Championship, but have a chance to boost their survival hopes with successive games against fellow strugglers Barnsley and Bristol City.
After Monday’s trip to Ashton Gate, Wednesday will have six games remaining, but none of their opponents can be considered to be among those chasing promotion with mid-table Leeds United the highest placed side.
Jones said: “The Easter period is not a defining time. There are still too many points on the table after Easter for it to be. But it is always important. I look across the division and everyone has something to play for. Every game now is huge.
“After Easter, we have Blackburn here at Hillsborough. Then, we will still have to play Peterborough, Blackpool, Ipswich. They are all teams that are around us.
“Nothing will be decided (over this weekend) but it will certainly help (that Wednesday face several of their relegation rivals).”
Wednesday’s run-in is likely to kick off today in front of Hillsborough’s first 30,000-plus crowd of the season with visitors Barnsley expected to bring around 4,000 fans.
Both south Yorkshire clubs have been in decent form with the Reds having claimed 23 points from 11 games since David Flitcroft succeeded Keith Hill in January and the Owls having lost just four of their last 16 league outings.
Jones added: “Barnsley have been on a run every bit as good as us. So, there is all the ingredients for a good game.
“Flitty is someone I know. He has done a good job after going in there and getting them up and running.”
Asked if he has been surprised by how much better the Reds have fared since Hill was sacked, Jones replied: “You have to question the players, don’t you?
“Why didn’t they do it for the previous guy? That is what I would be asking. Having said that, my priority is us.”
One player who will not be involved today is striker Chris O’Grady, who moved to Oakwell on loan from Hillsborough earlier in the season, but cannot play against his parent club.
Jones was angered by comments made earlier this week by Reds defender Bobby Hassell, who said: “I can’t believe they gave us Chris O’Grady.
“I joke with Chris that he kept Dave Jones in a job – and then he got rid of him.
“But we don’t mind because we’ve got him for the rest of the season and we appreciate how good a player he is.
“I think they have struggled a bit without him. We know what he is capable of, we saw that when he scored against us (to clinch an Owls win at Oakwell) earlier in the season.”
Wednesday manager Jones said: “There will be an edge to the game because it is a derby. There has also been a lot said by people who don’t know what has gone on.
“You let players out because it might allow you to bring in two or three others. People forget that. I don’t know the guy, but one Barnsley player had his little spout.
“What I will say is this guy doesn’t know what happens at this football club.
“It is best you concentrate on your own things, rather than ours.”
Derby preview with Reda Johnson: Page 3.