Emotions are running high at Hillsborough following a fraught run of league form for the Owls, with Tuesday’s much-needed 1-0 Championship win over second-from-bottom Bolton Wanderers securing a first victory in seven league matches for Jos Luhukay’s under-fire side.
Despite the success – played out in front of the Owls’ lowest home league crowd since April, 2016 – it was still an evening when the frustration of Wednesdayites came to the fore with the hosts receiving half-time boos for their insipid first-half performance against struggling Wanderers in what amounted to a desperately poor spectacle.
It was left to Lees, who turned 28 yesterday, to provide the game’s one relieving moment when he headed home the Owls’ winner in the second half.
The former Leeds United defender was the first to acknowledge that the victory possessed flaws and revealed that he had no issue with the disgruntlement of fans at the interval.
But the centre-half admits that he did take issue with full-back Fox – an unused substitute on Tuesday – being singled out for boos when he was replaced in the second half in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Rams, which he felt was unfair.
On the agitation of some supporters at the interval against Bolton, Lees said: “Yes, I can understand it, it was a flat game. Some things I understand, some things I do not.
“I did not understand it on Saturday with Foxy and, as captain, I think it is right for me to say that I think it was poor.
“Everyone has got their own opinion and can say what they want; they pay their money to get in. I just do not think that helps anyone.
“We understand that if you are not playing well, we can have it as a team. But I just think that (on Saturday) was a bit poor and nobody really needed it.
“It is give and take. The supporters pay a lot of money and travel so well and in great numbers. We have got to give them something to shout about and it is up to us, really.
“It is not down to them and, so far, we have not been good enough. They have got every right, but (should) just do it in the right way really to be justified.
“Nobody is stupid enough to know that we are not going to get criticised, but sometimes things are not really factual and educated and it just a cheap criticism, really.
“It annoys people, but we are well aware we have not been good enough and accept that.
“We have criticised ourselves and we deserve it. It is part of playing for a big club.”
Tuesday’s precious victory, which eased a spot of pressure on beleaguered head coach Luhukay, may have possessed imperfections, but it was one in which the work ethic of the home players could not be faulted.
Ultimately, on an evening when chiselling out a win – however it materialised – assumed fundamental importance, Owls players held their nerve to register their first home league success since August 25.
While Lees is the first to acknowledge that the Owls’ overall display was not satisfactory, he insists that the collective desire to turn things around and the dressing-room hurt at the club’s recent fraught run should not be doubted.
He added: “It is your profession and if we had played a game like this and lost, we would have gone home and everything would not have been brilliant.
“It is about the next game and it takes over your life and everyone wants to do their best. I do not think anything has changed and we cannot get carried away, we have just got to keep working at our game.
“The win is for the boys and takes a bit of pressure off them.
“Everyone wants to win and I do not know why some people think the players do not want to win.
“Obviously, everyone is getting frustrated and we have got to do what we can to try and do our bit on the pitch and, hopefully, people get behind us.”
Despite affording himself an early birthday present by virtue of his headed winner on Tuesday, Lees revealed that he took more satisfaction at the sight of the Owls securing their first clean sheet in the league at Hillsborough since April 21.
On a second shut-out in three league matches for Wednesday, who visit Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, Lees said: “I enjoyed the goal, but probably enjoyed keeping the clean sheet more.
“It was nice to help us get a win and give us a bit of confidence, really.
“When we try and play good football and concede goals, we are not happy – and when we play not so great football and it is not particularly good to watch, we might get a clean sheet.
“It is about a bit of a balance, really.”