HEAD coach Carlos Carvalhal is refusing to panic after Sheffield Wednesday dropped out of the Championship play-off positions after a 1-1 derby draw at Barnsley – and insists that the Owls’ fate is still in their hands.
A dramatic ‘93rd-minute’ leveller from defender Angus MacDonald cancelled out an opener five minutes after the break from former Reds striker Sam Winnall, with Wednesday’s winless run extended to four matches.
Fulham cashed in on the Owls’ late draw by leapfrogging them into sixth position after a 1-0 victory at Rotherham United, whose relegation to League One was finally confirmed.
Despite the Owls dropping out of the top six for the first time since late January, Carvalhal is keeping calm, clearly mindful that his side host Fulham in a potential winner-takes-all final-day game at Hillsborough on May 7.
Carvalhal, whose side face their second derby in the space of four days when they visit the relegated Millers tomorrow evening, said: “Something positive to us is that we depend on nobody.
“We are in the position where we do not depend on others. We are still running and fighting.
“Let’s focus on the next game on Tuesday. We’re still fighting at the limit and, hopefully, we can rediscover some players we have out.”
Conscious that Wednesday’s fate may go down to the final day, winger Adam Reach acknowledged: “There is every chance.
“If we play anywhere near our best, I think we pick up more points than Fulham. Hopefully, we will already be in the play-offs (on the last day) and they cannot catch us. But, if it does come down to that at Hillsborough with a full house and a great atmosphere, I think we’ll have the edge.”
Barnsley’s winless streak may have extended to seven matches – the Reds are without a home league win since January 21 – but head coach Paul Heckingbottom was delighted with his side’s efforts and believes that it can be a catalyst for the rest of the season.
We are in the position where we do not depend on others. We are still running and fighting.Sheffield Wednesday manager, Carlos Carvalhal
He said: “We kept going and with the spirit in the group, no-one will have an easy game against us.
“If we had cut out the errors, it would have been a good win for us. But we take the positives out of it, while still looking at what we can improve on.”
The Owls’ play-off rivals, Huddersfield Town and Leeds United, also suffered setbacks in their promotion quest, losing out to Burton and Reading, respectively.
Third-placed Town saw their hopes of catching the top two of Newcastle United and Brighton reduced significantly with a ‘96th-minute’ winner from Jackson Irvine seeing them slump to a second successive league loss.
But head coach David Wagner, who saw veteran midfielder Dean Whitehead dismissed late on following two bookable offences, believes that supporters should look at the bigger picture, with the club still enjoying a remarkable season even accounting for Saturday’s disappointment.
Wagner, who says that Jonathan Hogg could return against Norwich on Wednesday, said: “Anyone here in the stadium will be disappointed if we fail to be in the top two? If there is, then we would have to send them home and tell them never to come back in the stadium.
“I understand all the hopes and all the dreams, but we have to be focused on our performance. Anything else does not help.
“It makes sense to accept this defeat, feel that it hurts, work with this pain and be prepared for Wednesday to make it better.”
Leeds dropped to fifth after suffering their first defeat in eight matches in a 1-0 reverse against the Royals and are waiting to learn if Liam Cooper will be charged by the Football Association over an alleged stamp.
Cooper is facing a possible suspension after catching Reading substitute Reece Oxford in the face with a boot late on, with referee Keith Stroud issuing no punishment after speaking to one of his assistants.
There were also claims that home defender Tyler Blackett struck Leeds forward Chris Wood with an elbow in the first half.
On the Cooper incident, Monk, who said that he did not see either flashpoint, said: “I did not see it, but I got told about it afterwards. Liam is 100 per cent not that type of lad. He is not in any way that type of player.
“With my opinion of Liam, it will definitely be an accident and one that he did not mean to do. He is 100 per cent not like that.”