Sheffield Wednesday winger Michail Antonio believes the Owls are destined for the Championship even if they have to win promotion via the play-offs.
Wednesday and city rivals United are locked in a fierce battle for the second automatic promotion spot in League One.
The Owls’ 3-0 win over Oldham Athletic on Easter Monday stretched Dave Jones’s unbeaten run since taking over as manager from Gary Megson to eight games, the last four all wins and clean sheets, too.
But they are being matched by the Blades and it looks likely one of the Sheffield clubs will have to take their chances in the end-of-season play-offs and a possible Wembley final.
Antonio, yet to feature on a losing side since making his debut in the Steel City derby in February, has been a star performer following his arrival on loan from Reading.
Having already scored in a Wembley cup final, the winger is not fazed by the lottery of the play-offs.
“For us, the main priority is promotion,” said the 22-year-old. “It doesn’t matter if we don’t get second place, we feel we can get promoted even if that means going to Wembley. A nice little visit to Wembley wouldn’t be bad.”
He has good memories of playing at Wembley, scoring in Southampton’s 4-1 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final win over Carlisle United in 2010.
Antonio should have varnished his impressive Owls record – eight wins, two draws and three goals – against Oldham on Monday, but was thwarted in a one-on-one with goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis when the game was scoreless in the first half. He broke from halfway but tried to place his shot to the goalkeeper’s left.
“I had two good opportunities to score, the one-on-one I should have done better with,” he admitted. “The goalkeeper did very well, he read me right and throughout the game I kept thinking I should have gone the other way. But that’s always going to happen as it didn’t go in.”
Coming just 48 hours after a tough derby win over Huddersfield Town, a low-key Hillsborough match against an Oldham side battling against relegation always hinted at being a potential banana skin.
Goals from Gary Madine, Miguel Llera and Ryan Lowe secured all three points, though, and Antonio revealed there were some tired legs at the final whistle.
“Two games in three days, it was just draining,” he said. “You tried to get to the ball, but just couldn’t reach it. The left-back seemed to have a yard on me and just kept nicking it.
“It’s both mentally and physically draining.
“I am happy to have a couple of days off now, prepare our bodies for the Colchester match.”
The Owls travel to Colchester United on Saturday, a club Antonio played for on loan earlier this season, which included an eye-catching display at Hillsborough for the Essex club.
The 22-year-old scored four times in 15 appearances for Colchester before being recalled by Reading.
“Colchester have a decent squad and it will be two sets of boys who work hard for each other, so it’s not going to be an easy game. We just have to go there and try to get the three points.
“Brentford (the Owls’ final away match of the season) is another tricky place to go to, it’s not got the best pitch. We just need to keep performing and keep the pressure on Sheffield United.
“No one thought we could go to Huddersfield and win 2-0. Some saw it as a draw or a loss, but we have gone there and shown what we can do.
“There is such a buzz around the club. We have great camaraderie, and feel as one.”