Sheffield Wednesday v Charlton Athletic: Irvine relieved to be back at Hillsborough

League one: SHEFFIELD Wednesday manager Alan Irvine has stressed the importance of today's game at Hillsborough – as the Owls return to home soil after five weeks.

Still celebrating the dawn of a new era, the Owls were forced to scrap two home games over the Christmas period when freezing temperatures led to flooding in the main stands.

New owner Milan Mandaric had been introduced at the home game against Bristol Rovers where, buoyed by the positive atmosphere, the team produced a thrilling 6-2 victory.

Back-to-back league defeats at Exeter City and Huddersfield Town, however, have focused minds again on the pressure to win promotion and today's' visitors Charlton Athletic are one of the club's main rivals.

"It's a big game," said Irvine. "There's no doubt about that and we have a lot of big games between now and the end of the season. It is a long time since we played a home game and I'm looking forward to getting back and seeing how the crowd react again to Milan, obviously, plus the new signings."

Both Michael Morrison and Reda Johnson make home debuts after starring in last weekend's FA Cup third round victory over Bristol City.

Charlton have not won in five league games since November 20 and that slump in form contributed to the departure last week of manager Phil Parkinson.

Despite speculation linking Dennis Wise and Alan Curbishley with the vacant post, the Addicks have turned instead to former player Chris Powell.

Former England defender Powell, 41, had three separate spells with the Addicks during his playing career and had spent the last 18 months working as first-team coach at Mandaric's former club Leicester City.

This will be his first opportunity in management and his arrival could spark a positive reaction today from the opposition players.

Irvine said: "Charlton will be expecting to be competing at the top of the division just as are we. If we play at our best, we can win – but if we don't, Charlton have the ability to punish us."

Reserve team striker Nathan Modest, 19, is joining Blue Square Premier League side Darlington on loan until the end of the season.

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