Hull City v Sheffield Wednesday: Owls aim to atone by halting free-scoring Tigers

Tigers  Markus Henriksen: Has adapted to English game.   Picture: Tony Johnson.
Tigers Markus Henriksen: Has adapted to English game. Picture: Tony Johnson.
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FRONTING up after a painful defeat is all part of a young player’s learning curve – as Sheffield Wednesday defender Jordan Thorniley can probably attest to this week.

The Owls head into their final all-Yorkshire meeting of the season at Hull City this afternoon on the back of a meek defensive performance at QPR which saw them ship four goals in a poor and inexplicable 4-2 defeat.

With free-scoring opponents Hull having plundered a hugely-impressive nine goals in their last two outings, the perils of avoiding a replication of their soft rearguard display at Loftus Road certainly do not need spelling out to Thorniley and his defensive cohorts today.

Wednesday may not have been struggling in the goal-scoring department over the past month, but in terms of their back-four statistics, the stinginess of the early spell of Jos Luhukay’s time in charge has been conspicuous by its absence recently.

All told, the Owls have not kept a clean sheet in their past 11 games in all competitions – after registering seven in the opening month-and-a-half of the Dutchman’s tenure.

On the importance of getting back to basics at Hull, Thorniley said: “It is definitely a big task, but we are capable of keeping a clean sheet.

“There are good players in the team who can keep clean sheets but it is about concentrating for the whole 90 minutes from the first kick-off to the last whistle. We have to concentrate all the way through.

“I am just learning every game. I am going to make mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes, but it is just learning from those mistakes and building on it. I’m still 21 and I have got a long way to go.”

Despite a tough evening on Tuesday, Thorniley can reflect upon a season of progression and substance which has also seen him sign an improved deal and he is eager to finish 2017-18 on a fitting note.

Thorniley, who spent the first half of the season on loan at League Two title-chasers Accrington Stanley, added: “I am enjoying the fact I have been given a chance. First-team football is what I wanted. Obviously, going on loan and coming back has been good.”

Today’s game pits together two under-achieving mid-table sides who harboured far more lofty ambitions at the start of the season.

That said, both Luhukay and Hull counterpart Nigel Adkins have at least steadied the ship after fraught first halves of the season for their respective White Rose clubs.

Despite the pair looking towards next season already, it will be the hosts who head into this match in brighter spirits following their recent goals spree, with Hull seeking a third successive league win for the first time since January, 2016.

Alluding to the Tigers’ run of just one defeat in their last seven, midfielder Markus Henriksen said: “It has been a good few months for the club.

“It is just unfortunate that we were not ready when the season started, otherwise it could have been completely different.

“But we have put ourselves in this position.

“We have not performed good enough but we have definitely found some rhythm lately and, hopefully, we can finish the season strong.

“We are very motivated and looking forward to Saturday’s match.”

After playing a key role in their recent revival, Henriksen has also opened up candidly about his personal struggles since arriving at the club in August, 2016.

The Norwegian readily admits that he initially struggled to cope with the demands of the English game after arriving from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar.

But after some tough times earlier in the campaign, Henriksen forced his way back into the team and believes he has finally got to terms with the game on these shores.

“It took me some time to get used to it in England,” he added.

“I started to find my shape, but then I got small injuries and that killed a little bit of my passion.

“I do not think I was tough enough mentally.

“I knew the Championship was tough, but I did not think it was this tough.

“I have learned a lot from myself with everything that I’ve been through.

“I now want the ball whereas before I was a little bit afraid.

“You cannot be afraid if you want to play good football.

“I think I have the physique to do well in this league and I think now I am using my body.”