Sheffield Wednesday 0 Nottingham Forest 1: Gray wants Owls job full-time

Stuart Gray

Stuart Gray

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Stuart Gray had no hesitation in staking his claim for the vacant Sheffield Wednesday job despite seeing the Owls go down to a 1-0 defeat against Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough.

Simon Cox’s 48th-minute goal was enough to guide Forest into the top six while the Owls remained in the bottom three and facing a long, hard battle against relegation.

It brought to an end a tumultuous week for Wednesday with Dave Jones’ departure on Sunday followed by the news that sent fans across the city reeling when former Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock became front-runner to be named as replacement.

Warnock guided the Blades for eight seasons during which he had a fractious relationship with Wednesday fans.

Chairman Milan Mandaric confirmed Warnock was on the five-man shortlist but he withdrew from contention on Friday citing his affinity for the Blades and with Owls fans split on his possible appointment.

Gray revealed he had not had an interview for the job but that Mandaric had asked him before Saturday’s match to be in charge until at least Watford next week.

He also made no bones of his desire to take the job on a permanent basis.

“Of course - it is a fantastic football club,” he said. “See if you can get it going and get the crowd on their feet and chanting and such.

“We let the crowd down today with our quality in front of goal.”

Gray added: “The chairman asked me to take charge for today.

“I’d imagine I’ll probably be in charge for the Watford game unless I hear different.

“We’ll lick our wounds and I’ll get the team prepared and organised for the game at Watford.

“He said that before today’s result so I don’t know if that changes anything.

“If the chairman says I am on the shortlist then I must have a good chance.

“Whether that is four or 40 I don’t know.”

Of Saturday’s match, which left Wednesday second from bottom, Gray believed the team deserved better although he rued a lapse in concentration that resulted in Forest’s goal.

He said: “With the effort, commitment and application of the players (we deserved an equaliser).

“Where we did let ourselves down was the amount of decent possession we had in the final third but our final ball lacked a bit of guile.

“It was a game of few chances. The disappointing thing is the manner in which we conceded the goal.

“We’d got enough bodies back but Greg Halford broke away, slid a ball across and we have been punished.

“Forest are a good side, they’ve got quality players.

“But you have got to have full concentration, you have to come off the pitch mentally and physically shattered.

“One lapse has cost us.”

Opposite number Billy Davies insisted he had little interest in Forest’s move into the top six.

He said: “I understand you guys need to sell newspapers but when I look at the situation I don’t get too excited when we are in the top six, we go out of the top six, when we win, when we draw, when we lose.

“My message to the players has been the same; keep working away, keep ticking along, there’ll be highs, there’ll be lows, there’ll be ups, there’ll be downs.

“If anyone thinks for a second that come the end of the season the current league positions will be where they are, I think they are kidding themselves on.

“There is a long way to go.”

While bemoaning referee Lee Probert dismissing two apparently strong calls for a penalty, Davies did praise the way his side had approached the game.

“They (Sheffield Wednesday) had a fantastic result against Leicester, their tails are up, they are a strong team,” he said.

“You have to come here and put in a man’s performance

“I thought today we put in a man’s performance

“I thought we competed very, very well with a club that has some very good players and a club that is probably sitting in the wrong position.”

ends

Cox struck in the 48th minute, tapping home a ball across the six-yard box from Greg Halford, who spent the 2008-09 season on loan across the city with Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.

While victory guided Billy Davies’ team into the play-off places, the Owls are firmly rooted in a relegation battle with Saturday’s performance full of endeavour but short on end product.

It completed a busy week for Owls fans with former manager Dave Jones’ departure followed by the very real possibility of him being replaced by ex-Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock.

Not only did the prospect of Warnock in S6 divide the Wednesday fans, it also split United supporters who questioned his motivation and previous die-hard commitment to the S2 club.

Chairman Milan Mandaric had revealed Warnock - who guided the Blades for eight years - was on a five-man shortlist but on Friday he ruled himself out of contention, citing his affinity to Wednesday’s city rivals.

As well as the off-field intrigue, the Owls claimed their second win of the season when they beat leaders Leicester on Tuesday thanks to a double from Connor Wickham although they remained second bottom of the table, above Barnsley on goal difference.

Visitors Forest started the match in eighth, just three points off the play-offs despite having only won once in seven matches.

Forest had the first attack of note with Andy Reid its fulcrum with his attempt at a threaded ball through going for a corner of which nothing came.

Atdhe Nuhiu headed narrowly over for Wednesday when he should have at least tested the keeper and Wickham fired directly at Karl Darlow after running in on goal.

Cox fired over from distance for Forest and then Wednesday missed a golden chance when Darlow miscontrolled a backpass, ultimately playing the ball to Nuhiu.

However, the Owls striker’s touch was poor, allowing the keeper to smother at his feet.

Damian Martinez comfortably gathered from Cox and there was little of quality or invention from either side in the opening half hour.

Jacques Maghoma was upended but, with his Owls team-mate lying prone and boos ringing out around Hillsborough, Liam Palmer fizzed a ball across goal which eluded any Wednesday boot.

Cox then found himself in acres of space as Wednesday appealed for offside but he drilled his angled shot over the top right-hand corner of the goal when he had Reid and Djamal Abdoun in support.

Forest, though, went ahead two minutes into the second half when Cox had the simple task of tapping home Halford’s sliderule pass across the six-yard box.

Billy Davies’ side then had what appeared to be a good shout for a penalty dismissed when Cox went down under Martinez’s attention in front of goal.

Jose Semedo hit the ball across goal and well wide for the Owls while Wickham made space under close attention but fired a weak shot straight at Darlow.

Reda Johnson scooped the ball wide, seemingly surprised when the ball came to him and although the hosts were certainly not giving up there was such little end product it was hard to see where an equaliser could come from.

Indeed, Reda Johnson appeared fortunate not to concede a penalty in the final minutes when Matt Derbyshire went down in the area.

Five minutes of injury time were indicated. Roger Johnson’s shot screwed narrowly wide and bodies were flying as both sides found extra urgency.

Palmer fired high and wide from distance as the match came to a finish with Wednesday long on effort but creating little.

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