Crunch time: Sheffield Wednesday chief Carlos Carvalhal backs Owls to rise to the challenge

Jordan Rhodes after his penalty miss. Picture: Steve Ellis
Jordan Rhodes after his penalty miss. Picture: Steve Ellis
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CARLOS CARVALHAL admits Sheffield Wednesday face a “crucial” March in the club’s quest to reach the Championship play-offs for a second consecutive season.

The Owls slipped to a 1-0 derby defeat at Leeds United on an afternoon when Jordan Rhodes had a penalty saved by Rob Green and Chris Wood reached the landmark of 20 league goals for the campaign.

Leeds moved up a place to fourth in the table and are now eight points clear of the chasing pack in the race for the top six. Wednesday, meanwhile, are three points behind their Yorkshire rivals with a dozen games to play.

Three of the Owls’ next four outings are on home soil with Norwich City, relegation-threatened Burton Albion and fourth-placed Reading due at Hillsborough before the next international break. Carvalhal’s side also travel to Aston Villa on March 11.

“March will be a very important month to us,” said the Portuguese after seeing his side slip to a second defeat inside five days. “I hope we can achieve a good position by the end of the month.

“It will be a challenge to us. It is a crucial month in the season. It will decide nothing for us or other teams but it will be very important.”

Carlos Carvalhal, right, leads the applause to the Owls fans at the final whistle. Picture: Steve Ellis

Carlos Carvalhal, right, leads the applause to the Owls fans at the final whistle. Picture: Steve Ellis

Wednesday’s back-to-back defeats came after a four-game winning run had raised hopes of a late dash for automatic promotion.

Rhodes’ saved penalty at Elland Road proved crucial in Leeds claiming a first league double over their south Yorkshire rivals since 1999-2000.

“A penalty is part of the game,” added Carvalhal. “We win together and we lose together. The responsibility is not on any player. It is all the time, my responsibility.

“My players know everyone can fall down but the strong characters, players and teams react very fast. They don’t cry. They react very fast. This is what I expect from the all the players or the team when they have a defeat,

It will be a challenge to us. It is a crucial month in the season. It will decide nothing for us or other teams but it will be very important.

Sheffield Wednesday manager, Carlos Carvalhal

“When individuals make a mistake or the team have a defeat, I expect that they stay strong and show a strong reaction. It is what I expect all the time from my players because this is what I am like in my life.

“When I have something that is not going well in my life, maybe I go that day to the floor but, believe me, the next day, I’m ready to fight again.”

Carvalhal’s disappointment was in stark contrast to the delight felt by Garry Monk that Leeds had claimed all three points at the expense of a promotion rival.

“It was a fascinating game and a good game,” he added. “All the ingredients were there.

HARD TO TAKE: Sheffield Wednesday boss, Carlos Carvalhal. Picture: Steve Ellis

HARD TO TAKE: Sheffield Wednesday boss, Carlos Carvalhal. Picture: Steve Ellis

“In the first half, we looked like the team on the front foot, creating and pushing, and we got our goal. As was to be expected when playing against a very good side, in the second half they put some pressure on.

“But, throughout that pressure, we dealt with it extremely well. I can’t remember them having a shot on our goal apart from the penalty. That was very pleasing.”

The second of two Yorkshire derbies on Saturday saw Barnsley rescue a point at home to Huddersfield Town through Marley Watkins after Michael Hefele had given the visitors a first half lead.

Brighton & Hove Albion’s win over Reading means the gap between the Terriers and the automatic promotion places was stretched to five points, Newcastle United – the visitors to the John Smith’s on Saturday – now occupying second place.

Asked if Town can go up, Reds head coach Paul Heckingbottom said: “When you look at the money behind Brighton and Newcastle – Brighton in particular – it is massive.

“Huddersfield haven’t got the same money as them, but what David (Wagner) has got is a real way of how he wants to play and he has been able to build on that throughout the season.

“I didn’t think they were as strong defensively, but they defended really well in the second half and I think if they can keep going like that, then they are going to have a good chance.”

Wagner, who is expected to ring the changes in Wednesday’s FA Cup fifth round replay at Manchester City, added: “I think we performed very well and of course, we deserved three points. But unfortunately, their goalkeeper was at his very best and we missed too many big opportunities which we created.”