Sheffield Wednesday must smash an unwanted derby record at Hillsborough today if they are to climb out of the Championship drop zone.
Dave Jones’s strugglers have yet to win a Yorkshire derby this season in five all-White Rose matches.
In fairness, the Owls have only won once against any team in any competition this campaign, but today’s derby with Huddersfield Town offers the hosts the perfect chance to build on the 5-2 demolition of Reading in their last Hillsborough outing.
Wednesday’s derby woes started with a humiliating 2-1 Capital One Cup loss to League One side Rotherham United in August.
The Owls have ground out 1-1 draws at Leeds United, Middlesbrough and Barnsley, but crashed to a 1-0 Hillsborough loss to Doncaster Rovers.
A fortnight ago, the feelgood factor after the Reading victory was shattered by a 3-0 loss at Derby County, but Owls captain Reda Johnson insists spirits are high despite Wednesday occupying a place in the bottom three in the Championship.
“It’s been a good break,” said the 25-year-old Benin international.
“When you are in our position, you just want to play and win points, but we have had this break and have used it very well.”
Asked to sum up Wednesday’s season to date, left-back Johnson gave a shrug of his massive shoulders and in excellent English clipped with a French accent replied: “I don’t think I have to explain it, everyone knows how the season has been so far.
“We are disappointed because we thought that we would do better.
“With the quality of the players we have in the dressing room, we cannot stay in that position.
“At the moment, we only have one win, which is very disappointing, but of course we will give our best until the end of the season.
“This club is not in the right place, but if we are here it’s because the players did not do enough.
“We maybe need to work more as a team, try to banish the small mistakes which are costing us goals.”
Johnson has become a huge fans’ favourite at Hillsborough since joining from Plymouth in 2011, but he accepts he has dipped below his own high standards as he battles back from niggling foot injuries which disrupted much of 2013.
“Everyone knows last season was hard for me,” he said. “I came back, didn’t have a pre-season, so I was always trying to catch up.
“I know my fitness is not right. With each game it is getting better and better.
“I know I am not 100 per cent, I think people can see that in the way I was playing – and the way I am playing now – it’s not the same.
“My enthusiasm means I will never give up and will always give 100 per cent.”
Johnson was handed the captaincy after Anthony Gardner was ruled out with a long-term injury, but the defender insists that extra responsibility has not affected his own game.
“I have been captain before at Plymouth and when I was in France,” he said.
“For me, it’s not something different. The armband is about the partnership you have with the other players.
“You don’t have to do something more, or different.
“You play your game like you always play, there’s no added pressure.”
Johnson will be out of contract in the summer and hopes to earn a new deal at Hillsborough.
“I always say that Sheffield Wednesday is a big club, and fits me well,” he said.
“You can see people like me and I really hope I will gain a new contract here.
“But football is your job. Some people have to make decisions, whether to keep me or don’t keep me, or I, too, will have to make some decisions, so we will see what the future brings us.”
Johnson was part of the amazing 4-4 Hillsborough game in League One two seasons ago, when then Huddersfield striker Jordan Rhodes netted four times.
“I have good and bad memories,” he recalled. “Good because it was an exciting game to play, bad because we were winning 4-2 and they came back to draw.
“It was a crazy situation. We were losing 2-0, came back to 4-2, and they drew level in the last minute. Jordan Rhodes had a big game; he’s not playing for them any more so I don’t think another player will score four goals.”
Owls manager Dave Jones believes that while the Reading performance was impressive, his side have played just as well this season on occasion only to be denied victory.
Many of those impressive displays came on the road, but the 5-2 Royals win gave the long-suffering Hillsborough fans a taste of success.
“We have played games where we never got the rewards that we thought we should have, with a win,” said Jones.
“The benchmark was set on the first game of the season when we played against QPR.
“We played so well, but didn’t get the victory. The players know what they are capable of.
“They just showed it again a few weeks ago against Reading here (at Hillsborough).
“The away fans have probably seen the best of us performance-wise; now the home fans know what we are capable of.”
Jones will certainly be hoping for a repeat of the Reading display today rather than the abysmal performance which merited their 3-0 loss at Derby County a fortnight ago.
“Against Derby we did not compete,” he confessed.
“The more personal battles you win around the pitch, the more chance you have of winning a football match.
“We didn’t win many battles at Derby and that’s why we lost, yet go to the Reading game and you see we probably won 80-90 per cent of battles around the pitch and that’s what got us the result.”
Plymouth Argyle yesterday signed Northern Ireland Under-21 striker Caolan Lavery on loan from the Owls until the new year.
Lavery has made three substitute appearances for Wednesday this season, the last of those coming against Barnsley back in October.
The 21-year-old, who had a spell with Southend earlier this year, could make his Pilgrims debut against Dagenham today.