Fernando Forestieri determined to be Sheffield Wednesday talisman again

Back in the thick of it: Fernando Forestieri holds off Matt Grimes. Picture: Steve EllisBack in the thick of it: Fernando Forestieri holds off Matt Grimes. Picture: Steve Ellis
Back in the thick of it: Fernando Forestieri holds off Matt Grimes. Picture: Steve Ellis
Fernando Forestieri is “hungry” to earn his place in Garry Monk’s Sheffield Wednesday team.

The Italian forward is yet to start in Monk’s first 11 games as Owls manager, after serving a six-game ban – for alleged racist language in a pre-season friendly last year – when the new manager arrived at Hillsborough in September.

But he came off the bench to score his first goal of the campaign, in the 2-2 draw with Swansea City, and is determined to earn a starting spot.

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Certainly, with the amount of chances the Owls missed on Saturday – and a lack of goals in general, just nine in nine games at Hillsborough this season – then a fully-focused Forestieri will be hard to ignore.

“I am hungry,” said the Argentine-born striker. “I had my six-game ban and since then the team have played well so I had to wait for my chance.

“I can’t change what happened in the past. I just need to prove I can play for Wednesday.

“I was very happy to score. I am happy to get some minutes in my legs.

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“I need to keep going and when I get a chance I need to try and play well and help the team.

“I am training hard every day.

“I am happy when I am in the squad but I am happier when I play.”

Forestieri only started once under caretaker manager Lee Bullen at the start of the season.

But the 29-year-old is eager to prove his worth to Monk.

He added: “I respect the new coach. He knows what he is doing. I just need to keep going and try to help the team.

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“I have a lot of friends in the team and I want the team to win and that is the most important thing.

“It is not about one player. We all need to push in the same way to try and do something important for.”

The Owls will struggle to create as many clear-cut chances, as they did against Swansea, in a game all season.

At Middlesbrough last month, Wednesday were 4-1 ahead by half-time, and it could have been a similar scoreline on Saturday.

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Jacob Murphy was thwarted by Swans goalkeeper Freddie Woodman – after a well-worked corner routine from Kadeem Harris – in the fourth minute. It was a sign of things to come, as Monk’s tactical switch to employ two centre forwards, two direct wingers and no defensive midfielder – with Sam Hutchinson and Julian Borner missing due to injury and illness – kept the visitors on the back foot.

Atdhe Nuhiu went close three times, and Steven Fletcher was denied first by Woodman, then later when his header bounced to safety off the post.

But, as stated in the unwritten football laws, when a team spurns so many chances in front of goal, the opposition usually hit them with a sucker punch.

So when Swansea had a rare corner on 35 minutes, goalkeeper Keiren Westwood dropped the ball under pressure, and, as his defenders dithered, Andre Ayew was quickest to react and fire into an unguarded net.

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The chances kept coming for Wednesday after the interval, Fletcher’s cross was poked wide by Murphy, an unmarked Nuhiu glanced his header wide from eight yards out, Fletcher’s header was blocked by Woodman before Murphy smashed the rebound against the post.

Swansea had their chances in the second half. Ayew should have scored but planted his header wide, Fox blocked Nathan Dyer’s effort, Ben Wilmot hit the post, before Westwood dived low to his left to palm away Connor Roberts’s shot.

Monk reacted by bringing on three attacking substitutes, and two combined for the equaliser on 81 minutes.

Adam Reach – dropped to the bench in favour of Murphy – saw his long-range strike parried by Woodman, and when Kieran Lee squared the ball, substitute Forestieri prodded the ball into the net.

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Fletcher had a ‘goal’ ruled out for offside, before another Owls corner finally paid off, as Fox fired in.

But, just as at Blackburn Rovers seven days earlier – when the hosts netted twice in the final five minutes, including a stoppage-time winner – Wednesday switched off in the closing minutes to toss away the victory.

Westwood produced a stunning close-range save to deny Sam Surridge, but, from the resulting corner, Wilmot powered in a back-post header.

“Westy was fouled from the corner kick at the end,” claimed Forestieri. “Someone pushed him and then they scored.

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“But we should have marked better and everyone should have been focused to finish the job off.

“I think we need to improve our focus at the end of games. We need to improve on little things and keep going.We felt sad at the end because we should have won.

“But the Championship is long and we need to improve, learn from our mistakes and get as many points as we can.

“We have lost too many points. We need to improve our concentration and focus. We should have picked up six points from the last two games.”

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Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood, Palmer, Lees, Iorfa, Fox, Harris (Rhodes 83), Bannan, Lee, Murphy (Reach 76), Fletcher, Nuhiu (Forestieri 66). Unused substitutes: Dawson, Pelupessy, Odubajo, Thorniley.

Swansea City: Woodman, Naughton, Wilmot, van der Hoorn, Bidwell, Byers, Grimes, Dyer (Roberts 77), Celina (Fulton 83), Routledge (Surridge 87), Ayew. Unused substitutes: Nordfeldt, Baston, Peterson, Cabango.

Referee: D Webb (Lancs).