Dave Jones helped relegate Sheffield Wednesday from the Championship three years ago, but the Owls manager is determined to avoid history repeating itself this season.
Jones was manager of Cardiff City, who beat Wednesday in the penultimate game in 2010 which helped send Alan Irvine’s team down to the third tier of English football.
Fast forward three seasons, and the Owls find themselves back in a scrap for survival – this time under the stewardship of Jones – after Saturday’s defeat to Leicester saw them drop into the relegation zone.
The joy of promotion from League One has swiftly been crushed with just two wins from their last 16 games.
Wednesday hit rock bottom against Leicester, failing to test goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, being outworked in midfield and booed off the field by a stunned 24,664 crowd after goals from Danny Drinkwater and Ben Marshall secured Nigel Pearson’s team an easy three points.
Jones was quick to accept his Owls side were beaten by the better team on the day, but insists staff, players and supporters must stick together at Hillsborough if they are to climb out of trouble.
“I was told there were one or two fans booing – listen, we have to stick together because the club has been through this three years ago,” said Jones, who gave debuts to loan pair Mamady Sidibe and Jeremy Helan.
“We always knew it would be difficult coming into this level of football. We will come up against teams with better footballers, more knowledge, more stability at this level, and we just have to work our way through this.
“I thought the fans were good (on Saturday) and stuck with them, and they have to stick with them. You can’t keep having a go at them all the time.
“I haven’t had a go at them, I have just tried to educate them on what needs to be done.”
Both sides struggled to establish a foothold in the first half, the closest Schmeichel came to being tested being an over-zealous back pass from defender Ritchie De Laet.
Marshall, on loan at Hillsborough last season until a £1m move from Stoke to Leicester in January cut short his stay, was enjoying his first return to S6 and tested Owls goalkeeper Chris Kirkland from long range.
Recalled captain Martin Taylor – in for the suspended Miguel Llera – was then at full stretch to deny Jamie Vardy a dream return to the club where he was rejected as a teenager.
But there was no denying the Foxes. Wednesday defenders were caught chasing the ball and a simple one-two saw Marshall pick out Drinkwater, who fired low inside Kirkland’s right-hand post.
Zak Whitbread twice produced impressive blocks to thwart Bothroyd and then substitute Gary Madine from troubling Schmeichel, but, in truth, Wednesday never threatened to score.
It was left to Marshall to wrap up the points with 15 minutes remaining with a sweet finish at the Leppings Lane end, the former Owls winger’s muted celebrations earning him a round of applause from home fans when he was substituted several minutes later.
“Leicester are a very good side with some very good players and they are a better side than us,” admitted Jones.
“They are an established side in the Championship and we are not at that level yet.
“But we didn’t help ourselves because we were out-thought and we didn’t create the chances that we normally do, and that was disappointing.
“The better teams in this division will pick you off when you are not at your best and that is what we saw (against Leicester).
“This was the first time I have seen us outworked. Their passing and movement was far better than ours.
“We are a little bit naive in some of the things we do. We haven’t got many talkers out there so we could not get control.”
One bright spot on an afternoon of woe was the return of midfielder Chris Lines as a second-half substitute.
Lines, a key member of Wednesday’s promotion-winning side, had not played this term after picking up a nasty knee injury pre-season.
The 26-year-old had a 25-minute run-out, reuniting the midfield quartet of himself, Jose Semedo, Jermaine Johnson and Michail Antonio, who pushed Wednesday to League One glory last season.
Now Jones must decide whether to risk Lines for tomorrow’s visit of Watford to Hillsborough, or gently ease him back into first-team duties.
“It was always a risk when he has been out a long time,” said Jones. “He has got into the fray a little bit, (but) he’s got a long way to go – there is another game, whether we include him or not on Tuesday – but it is nice to see him back.
“Leicester got a grip in midfield and we lost that battle. We didn’t move the ball quick enough.”
Joining Vardy and Marshall in making a winning return to Hillsborough, was Nigel Pearson – the League Cup-winning captain from 1991 – and the Leicester manager believes his former club can avoid the drop.
“Dave is a very experienced manager and I’m sure they’ll pull it round,” he said.
“For this season, for them I think it’s about trying to consolidate after last season’s promotion.
“We took a bit of time to get our game going, but I thought the players were very professional with the way they went about it and for the large part I felt we controlled the game.
“I think when you play against sides who have had a bit of a difficult time the first goal is always very important and for us to go in at half-time with a lead was very, very important.
“I don’t think Wednesday have recovered too many times from a losing position this season.”
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Weather for Yorkshire
Saturday 25 May 2013
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