Sheffield Wednesday winger Jacques Maghoma has been urged to add goals to his creative talents.
The Owls winger is eighth in the Championship’s assists list, having created seven out of Wednesday’s 28 goals this campaign.
Bournemouth playmaker Matt Ritchie tops the charts with 12 assists in 33 games, with others around Maghoma including former Premier League star Hugo Rodallega and ex-Owls winger Michail Antonio.
Maghoma had a hand in all of Wednesday’s goals at Millwall in midweek in a 3-1 win, but the 27-year-old has yet to score in the Championship this term.
His only goal came in the 3-0 win over Notts County in the Capital One Cup in August, and he only netted three times last year.
It is a far cry from the 18 goals Maghoma scored in League Two with Burton Albion in 2012-13, which tempted the Owls to bring him to Hillsborough.
Now Owls head coach Stuart Gray – keen to bring in a wide player to give Maghoma much-needed competition – has challenged the winger to break his Championship duck this season.
“Jacques will be disappointed with his goals,” said Gray. “He got 16 (league) goals at Burton before we signed him.
“Your wide players have got to create chances for the forwards. He did excellently the other night against Millwall, but he has to do it on a consistent basis.
“He also has to chip in with goals as well.
“It’s to do with confidence. I don’t know if it’s to do with trying to run with the ball on our pitch, but suddenly we play on a nice pitch at Millwall and he creates three goals for us.
“He just has to be more consistent for us – with the ball and without the ball as well.
“He has been unlucky, having hit the woodwork and goalkeepers pulling off saves. It happens, players go through runs, but Jacques is working very hard on the training ground, doing extra training for that part of his game.
“We want him to create, but we also want him to put the ball in the back of the net as well.
“It was nice to get back to winning ways (on Tuesday). I was delighted with the goals, three from open play, all quality goals.
“The pleasing thing is two players (Atdhe Nuhiu and Stevie May) who scored haven’t been in the goals recently, but they got a goal each and that will give them confidence as well.
“The passing and movement was excellent, the weight of pass and decision-making was all spot-on.
“Jacques was involved in all three goals, which just shows if you play quick one-touch football around their 18-yard box you are going to cause problems. Then, you need someone to finish it off, which we had and which was the rewarding thing.”
Today, the Owls will be looking to complete a league double over Middlesbrough after a 3-2 win at the Riverside in August.
Goals from Nuhiu (2) and May stunned Boro, before Grant Leadbitter converted two late penalties. Gray is hoping for a repeat performance today, with new owner Dejphon Chansiri watching on from the directors’ box.
“At the Riverside, everybody turned up,” Gray recalled. “We put a shift in, closed them down, nullified them from playing, and we have to do that again on Saturday.
“They are in good form, but we want to build on the result the other night at Millwall. We now want to start putting on performances at our place as well.
“We are looking forward to the match, and will give them a good game. There will be a good crowd, good atmosphere and, hopefully, we can give them something to cheer about, some goalmouth action.
“They have pace in the team, and will hit you on the counter-attack, so the onus is on us to attack them. We have got five goals in the last two games and, hopefully, we can go on a little run of scoring.
“We have had chances at Hillsborough. Not half-chances, good chances where you get off your seat and think ‘goal’.
“Unfortunately, attempts have been saved, hit the woodwork, or missed the target. We were on a bad run, not a win in seven (before Millwall). Apart from the Ipswich game, our performances have been reasonably good.
“At the start of the season, it was the same sort of performances, but we were winning the games,” added the Owls’ head coach.
Kamil Zayatte, 29, has filled in for injured captain Glenn Loovens at centre-half for the last three games, and looks set to continue today.
He missed training on Thursday after “tweaking his knee” at Millwall, but Gray is confident he will be fit to line-up alongside Tom Lees at the heart of Wednesday’s defence.
“He has been away on African Nations duty so it’s been a bit stop-start for him, but he has got an opportunity and I think he has grabbed it,” said Gray.