CHASTENED Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham United players return to training today with their ears still ringing after receiving the hairdryer treatment from Stuart Gray and Steve Evans.
Deflating and passionless setbacks to Bournemouth and Reading, respectively, when both failed to lay a glove on their opponents ensure both sides head into Saturday’s high-octane derby at Hillsborough with a whimper.
One thing that Gray and Evans are likely to be in agreement about is their relief that a potent local skirmish, where abrogating responsibility is not an option, is next up.
Blowing a gasket is not usually the way of Owls head coach Gray. A thoughtful and unassuming figure, it must take a lot for the quietly-spoken Yorkshireman to vent his spleen at the players as happened on Tuesday.
The dressing room doors remained locked for some considerable time after the 2-0 home loss to Bournemouth, which extended the Owls’ alarming winless streak to nine games.
A candid and heated post-mortem took place between Gray, his coaching staff and players, whose home-sickness is turning into a debilitating affliction.
Losing to a Bournemouth side who came into the game on a significant winning roll – eight victories in their previous nine games – was disappointing, but not the main issue.
Much more worthy of censure, according to Gray, was the flagrant lack of character and desire shown by his charges, who have won once in the league on home soil this term and have netted just three Championship goals at S6.
The seasonal hopes of the 14th-placed Owls, who were in the final play-off spot after their Championship win over Reading on September 20, rest with remedying the Hillsborough curse – not for the first time in recent seasons.
Gray said: “At the minute, we are a Jeykll and Hyde side. Away from home, we play with confidence and self-belief.
“Talking to the staff who have been here a long while, home form seems to have been a problem for a while.
“But what a fantastic place Hillsborough is to play your football. It is a fantastic pitch, with great surroundings and passionate fans. They should enjoy it and use it as a strength. But you are not going to win football matches if you don’t fight or scrap.
“You have got to have strong characters to stand up and be counted and probably the best thing for us is that Saturday is a local derby against Rotherham.
“The pleasing thing is we have had a clear-the-air (meeting) and thrashed it out and people will see a different Sheffield Wednesday side on Saturday.”
Millers chief Evans has always openly worn his heart on his sleeve, but his message was the same as Gray’s after the final whistle on Tuesday.
Home truths were uttered at the Madejski Stadium after the Millers’ abject 3-0 reverse, their second successive defeat by a three-goal margin.
Like Gray, Evans simply will not tolerate a repeat display. The Scot said: “It’s as poor as we have been and we lacked everything that is good about our game from start to finish.
“Reading outworked us, which is unusual for my team, and bullied us in key positions.
“In every game, I have been a manager I can put up with players having a bad game or missing a pass or chance or doing things which are uncharacteristic. But I can’t put up with a lack of spirit, endeavour or fight, which were all missing.
“The doubters will be jumping up from behind the couch. But we have got some good players in the dressing room and big characters and they need to demonstrate that. We need to prove a point, rather than talk about making a point.”
On what turned out to be a largely bleak night for Yorkshire, Huddersfield also tasted defeat but did so in the ‘right manner.’
Town’s 3-2 reverse at Derby extended their wait for a win at the Rams to 21 games; their last victory there being in November, 1957.
Manager Chris Powell, whose side lost for the first time in eight matches, was beaten but very much unbowed.
Powell said: “Losing is not a good feeling, but I have to look back on our unbeaten run with a lot of pride. Even at times at Derby, I could be proud.
“We have got used to winning, and if not, taking something from matches, so it is hugely disappointing to have lost one.
“Realistically, there will always be defeats along the way, but the players were hurting in that dressing room, and I believe there will be a response on Saturday.”
Neil Redfearn’s Leeds saw their winless streak extend to eight matches, but the new United head coach was at least energised by aspects of his side’s play in a 2-2 draw with Charlton Athletic.
But he says they must back up parts of their display with three points against bottom club Blackpool. “We were the better side by a straight. Charlton are a good side but we were better and deserved to win.
“The harder we work, the luckier we will get. It’s time for a win, but we have to keep going down these lines. We are a wounded animal at the minute but I will not let them rest. I will make them better.”