Stuart Gray acknowledges that the Ipswich team which his Sheffield Wednesday side face tonight possess the promotion x-factor his men are lacking.
Gray has masterminded a solid season at Hillsborough, with Wednesday proving hard to beat in their rise into the top half of the Championship table.
But their attempts at breaking into the top six – which they now trail by four places and 11 points with 17 games remaining – have been undermined by their absymal scoring record.
The Owls have managed just 22 goals in 29 Championship games, with the four points dropped against Cardiff on Saturday and against Ipswich in the reverse fixture earlier in the campaign symptomatic of their troubles.
Ipswich, but for a slowing down in recent weeks, have been the closest challengers to the second-tier’s top three, Derby, Bournemouth and Middlesbrough, and Gray knows why.
“They play to their strengths with Daryl Murphy up front and David McGoldrick around him and together they’re a good combination,” said Gray.
“Mick McCarthy’s got an honest bunch and they grind out results.
“And that’s the secret, it’s not rocket science. Just look at Burnley last year; two banks of four and very solid, but they’ve got something very special up front in Danny Ings and Sam Vokes.
“If we’d have converted our chances we’d be higher up the league. That’s the Championship, the sheer honesty of it. If you don’t turn up you get beat.
“You cannot afford to carry any players, and that’s why it’s so well thought of around the world; the honesty of it, the intensity of it, the Saturday-Tuesday factor.”
Despite the points gap, Gray has not given up hope of mounting a top-six challenge.
“We’ve dropped away, but there’s enough points to play for and we’ve got to keep believing,” he said. “But whether we win ugly or play ugly, the most important thing at this stage of the season is the three points.”
Blackpool, who are understood to be interested in goalkeeper Chris Kirkland, have also made an enquiry about Gary Madine with Gray open to allowing the striker to move.
Last six games: Ipswich LLWLDL, Sheffield Wednesday LWLDLD.
Referee: S Attwell (Warwickshire).
Last time:Ipswich 2 Sheffield Wednesday 1; May 3, 2014; Championship.