MANAGER Jos Luhukay has praised Tom Lees after his return to the Sheffield Wednesday ranks.
The centre-half missed over three months of the season with a groin injury and watched from the sidelines as the Owls tumbled down the Championship table.
But the 27-year-old has started the last two games – last week’s 2-1 defeat to Ipswich Town, and Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Bolton Wanderers – and is set to continue when the Owls travel to his former club Leeds United on Saturday.
Against Bolton, Lees put in a man-of-the-match display, marshalling the Owls’ defence, with one recovering tackle in the first half on Adam Le Fondre preventing a clear goalscoring chance.
“Tom played a very good game. He was strong in one-against-one, strong in the air,” said Luhukay. “On the ball he was good and I am very happy that Tom is back.
“He gave the defending a little bit of stability.”
George Boyd looked to have earned Wednesday a rare victory – Luhukay has only one in the Championship since taking over two months ago – but substitute Aaron Wilbraham headed in a stoppage-time equaliser.
Luhukay said: “For the 90 minutes, in the first half we only gave them (Bolton) one chance.
“Over 90 minutes we had a good defence. At the end it wasn’t enough to win.”
He added: “That is so frustrating. The players are also very disappointed and frustrated, giving three points away.
“We must look at what we can do for next Saturday at Leeds.”
The draw nudges the Owls eight points clear of the Championship drop zone, and next up is Saturday’s trip to Leeds, who were forced to settle for a 2-2 draw at Reading.
That deficit could by cut to five points tomorrow if Burton Albion and Barnsley – the latter 3-1 weekend losers at Middlesbrough – win their game in hand.
The Tykes host Norwich City while Nigel Clough takes his Burton team back to former employers Sheffield United.
The Blades – held 2-2 at Ipswich on Saturday – are desperate for a win to claw back the five-point gap to sixth-placed Boro as they cling on to fading play-off hopes.
The big winners on Saturday were Hull City, who came out on top 4-3 against Norwich City.
The game included four converted penalties – two apiece – as Nigel Adkins’s side battled back from 3-1 down.
Victory puts the Tigers six points clear of the drop zone, and left Adkins delighted.
“I thought the players were magnificent,” he said. “We’ve gone behind, but we’ve responded, we’ve kept our composure. Great credit to the players.
“It’s a fantastic performance in my eyes, the character shown by the players having gone 3-1 down. It’s a big three points.”