Derby County v Sheffield Wednesday: Professional approach needed if Owls are to avoid play-off bans

Sheffield Wednesday defender Tom Lees knows discipline is key as Owls enter vital stage of promotion campaign.
Sheffield Wednesday defender Tom Lees knows discipline is key as Owls enter vital stage of promotion campaign.
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TOM LEES believes his Sheffield Wednesday team-mates must keep their cool as the race to reach the Premier League starts to hot up.

The Owls travel to Derby County for a televised lunchtime game today with both sides occupying the final two play-off places, with just three games remaining of the regular campaign.

Wednesday will be without midfielder Ross Wallace and for the final two games of the season – against Cardiff City and away to Wolverhampton Wanderers – after he was sent off in the midweek draw with MK Dons.

The former Burnley player was shown a straight red card for an off-the-ball incident, as tempers boiled over on Tuesday night.

Centre-back Lees knows any further red cards could have serious repercussions if Wednesday do reach the play-offs.

“Any sending off could now drag over into the play-offs so it’s important we keep our cool,” said Lees.

“We were just so frustrated on Tuesday as it’s a game, if we had won, where we would have sealed a place in the play-offs.

“It was just a bit of frustration but that’s good to see as it shows it means a lot to us.”

Owls head coach Carlos Carvalhal also urged his team to keep calm, after seeing Wallace clash with Jonathan Williams on Tuesday.

“Ross Wallace cannot do that,” said Carvlhal. “I have spoken to him and the group.

“You have to be professional, and these situations cannot be allowed to happen at any point in the season, but especially now.

“I have spoken to Ross and he understands, he agrees with me absolutely.”

Wednesday were left frustrated after striking the woodwork four times, in a 0-0 draw, when a win would have virtually assured their top-six spot.

As it is, they stand six points better off than seventh-placed Cardiff City, who host relegated Bolton Wanderers later in the afternoon.

Former Leeds United defender Lees says there is a buzz around Hillsborough and they are determined not to just to make up the numbers if they go on and secure their place in the play-offs for only the second time in the club’s history.

“There is a buzz coming into training,” he said. “As we get closer to the end, there is a lot of excitement. We just really want to do it. There is a hunger and a passion and a focus because it is a really professional changing room.

“We don’t just want to get in the play-offs – we want to win them. The play-offs aren’t really anything if you are still in the same league next season.

“We will give it all we have got. We will get the most out of what we have got from now until the end of the season. We will have to see where that gets us.

“Getting in the play-offs is not really an achievement unless you do something with it. We can’t get too comfortable.”

Today gives Wednesday a final chance to beat one of the five teams above them in the Championship table.

In nine previous games, the Owls have drawn six and lost three.

The Owls have lost twice to Middlesbrough, and Burnley won at Turf Moor before a 1-1 stalemate at S6.

They drew home and away with Hull City and Brighton, and it was 0-0 against the Rams at Hillsborough.

Lees does not read too much into that statistic, although he accepts they will need to improve that record in the play-offs if they are to secure promotion.

“I don’t think it is too much of an issue for the guys in the changing room,” said the 25-year-old. “We have played well against some of the teams who are above us.

“It’s those fine margins in those games.

“They are so tight and we have drawn a lot of those games and that will be the difference in the play-offs.

“Can we turn those draws into wins? We have to focus on our own form.”

That will include being more ruthless in front of goal, after dropping four points in back-to-back home draws with Ipswich Town and MK Dons.

The Owls spurned numerous chances and have collected just two points from their last three games.

Despite that, Cardiff have not punished the Owls, after they managed just a solitary point from nine following defeats at Fulham and Brentford. It means the buffer has increased from five points to six.

“You wouldn’t expect that to happen but it shows you can’t take any game for granted,” said Lees.

“You have to take it game by game in this league. People would have thought we would have won the other night. It wasn’t meant to be.

“We have to concentrate on ourselves and make sure we have got some form going into the play-offs if we secure that place.

“It would be nice to secure it today. You don’t want it hanging over you and going into the last game and feeling under pressure.

“You don’t want that to be the case. We want to secure it as soon as possible and work on getting our form better.

“It will give us a bit of time to prepare for the play-offs. They are one-off games. It is a case of playing three cup finals and then going up.

“But the team that is in form generally tends to do well in the play-offs.

“Everybody is trying to win the last three games to get a run going.

“I thought Ipswich and MK Dons have brought out two of our better performances.

“We played well against them both and created a lot of chances. It is just a case of being more clinical.

“It is frustrating we haven’t won the games and secured our place in the play-offs already. We need to get a bit of form going into the last few games.”