DCSIMG

A tea-time kick-off but High Noon for rivals 
at Oakwell

Today’s South Yorkshire derby at Oakwell has been billed in some quarters as a High Noon shoot-out between two of the Championship’s biggest strugglers.

Forget that it is a 5.20pm kick-off and on the small screen, not a cinema blockbuster.

In the red stetson, Barnsley’s Keith Hill boasting a recent record of 10 matches without a win.

In the blue stetson, Wednesday’s Dave Jones and a stuttering run which has seen them lose their last seven games, just two wins in 18 Championship outings.

While Owls boss Jones is no cowboy operator when it comes to managing a football club, he loves getting away from the pressure cooker of the game by riding his horses back at his home in Wales.

He even has a Western-style saddle when he goes riding to fit the cowboy image as he heads into town today at the Oakwell coral.

It is debatable who would be cast in Gary Cooper’s role as the heroic marshall today, either Jones or Hill, but many believe the loser today could well be run out of town by angry locals.

“High Noon?” laughed Jones at yesterday’s pre-match press conference. “Let’s hope there’s no windows to smash like in the film.

“Everybody seems to be under pressure. I love my job, it comes with the territory. I don’t know Keith that well, so I don’t know how he is feeling. We will probably have a drink afterwards.

“I can’t help anybody else at the moment, we are just trying to help ourselves.

“There’s no magic formula, you just have to try and win more games than you lose. It’s quite a simple formula, it’s just it doesn’t always go as you plan it.”

Asked if he was confident that the Owls were good enough to climb out of the bottom three, Jones said: “Yes I am. I work with the players every day and I see it (the quality). Yes I do believe they have had a bit of bad luck along the way, but then turn it into good luck.

“I have said to them (yesterday morning), we are all in this together. We got ourselves in it and we are the only ones who can get us out. That’s a siege mentality, whatever you want to call it. I have been a fighter all my life.

“I have been here six months and all of a sudden you are talking about getting rid of somebody, it just seems ridiculous.

“Just look at Sir Alex (Ferguson), everyone says he was one game away from losing his job, then 25 years later he is the best manager that this country has ever seen, probably.

“Fate may have a part to play in this football club, it might be that we are not ready to go down just yet.”

Wednesday have been forced to train indoors this week due to frozen pitches, although they trained on a rain-lashed Hillsborough pitch yesterday.

Their horrendous recent form has seen them drop to second-bottom in the Championship, and it will need a Hollywood ending to rival the classic High Noon for them to secure safety. Defeat today would see Wednesday six points from survival.

Boosted by the return of left-back Reda Johnson to training yesterday – the defender is unlikely to feature at Oakwell today – Jones believes his team can turn their season around.

“The players are in good fettle, they are working hard – as they always have been – it’s now just trying to be confident, everybody has written them off.

“I don’t want to be a broken down record, we have moved on from last week. Just trying to focus on the job in hand, every game that comes. That’s all we can do.

“We all know where we stand. Everybody is buoyant, you have seen that in the performances. It’s just getting that bit of luck and you have to make that yourself.

“We need to make our own luck, it’s going to be another difficult game for us.

“There’s always a siege mentality at every club from the start of a season, it just seems to be that when things aren’t going okay everyone seems to focus on it. But there is a good camaraderie amongst them all and there always has been.

“You don’t get the performances that we are getting from them and the work-rate if there is a problem. What we have to do is just stick together.

“It is a tough time for the football club. Have I been through this before? Not to this extent, but of course I have been through bad times. What it does is it makes you realise how good the good times are, and you want them back.”

Wednesday slumped to a home defeat against Bristol City last week, only denied a late equaliser when referee Andre Marriner missed a blatant handball.

Defender Miguel Llera was then penalised for protesting too loudly, meaning Gary Madine’s follow-up ‘goal’ was chalked off.

Now Jones is hoping his Spanish defender can bounce back in the cauldron atmosphere of derby day at Oakwell this tea-time.

“We are not playing the cameras, we are playing against a side who are in a similar situation to ourselves,” said Jones. “Everybody needs the points, but the added spice is it’s a derby and on TV.

“You have to keep your head and try to get the points. What lets us down at the moment is lack of concentration and discipline at times.

“Miguel thinks the world is against him at the moment, but he’s 32 years of age and if he hasn’t been through the mill once or twice in his career then he is a very lucky person.

“He’s had a bit of a bashing this week – from all quarters – and rightly so. We are not going to hide away from that fact.

“Now, if selected, he has to stand up and be counted again.”

The same message goes to striker Madine, who scored his third goal of the season last week against Bristol City and is looking for an extended run in the first team with on-loan Jay Bothroyd out injured and set for a return to QPR in the new year.

Madine, 22, was Wednesday’s top scorer last season with 18 goals, but is still finding his feet in the Championship and has been challenged to add more strength and power to his natural goalscoring ability.

“Gary will admit he has a lot of work to do if he wants to stay at the top of his game,” said Jones. “If he wants to stay in this division, he knows the things he has to do. Maybe the penny has dropped a little bit with him.

“Gary knows what he has to work on in his game. He’s a young player, with strength and power. We know he’s one of, if not the best, finishers in the football club. But you have got to get in them positions, it’s not League One football anymore.”

 

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