Set-piece resilience key to Sheffield Wednesday building on League Cup run

WHEN talk turns to the great stadiums that make the Premier League the place to be for footballers, Stoke City’s often windswept home rarely gets a mention.

Wednesdays Dutch defender Glenn Loovens has been given a taste for the big stage. Picture: Steve Ellis

With good reason, too, as the functional Britannia will hardly win any prizes for aesthetics alongside the great cathedrals of English football.

For Glenn Loovens, however, Tuesday’s Capital One Cup quarter-final tie in the Potteries has whetted the appetite sufficiently to leave the Dutch defender even keener than ever to help Sheffield Wednesday back to the big time.

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“Of course, we lost the game and that is never nice,” said the 32-year-old. “But we want to play those kind of games in the future.

“The Cup run has been great. We have played some big teams and got some great results. Not only for the players to enjoy but also the fans. You could see at Stoke what they are like. The crowd is fantastic. Hopefully, there is more to come for them and us after this Cup run.

“In the Championship, we are on the same points as the team in sixth. We are right where we want to be. Let’s hope we can continue this run and end the season with something nice.”

Wednesday battled hard on Tuesday but Mark Hughes’s side were deserved winners on a night when there was not a hint of the complacency that has proved so costly to top-flight sides in this season’s League Cup.

Loovens is the first to admit that but he is also adamant that a run that included victories over Arsenal and Newcastle United can only bode well for the rest of this season.

“People are talking about Sheffield Wednesday again and that is a good thing,” he added. “The vibe around the club is positive and we have to keep that going. We played some big teams and put in some great performances. Overall, we have to be proud.

“Stoke are a very good team and they made things very difficult for us. They had that extra bit of quality that can make a difference.

“We did everything we could out there. Unfortunately, they were better than us.

“We have to hold our hands up about being beaten by the better team. But we can be proud of what we have done and take that into the next game.”

Wednesday return to league action this Sunday against Derby County, who underlined their promotion credentials in Yorkshire just last week with a 2-0 victory at Hull City.

The Owls could be without a number of key players after Tom Lees limped out of the Stoke defeat with a hamstring problem and Jack Hunt had to be replaced at the interval. Loovens was also having difficulties before admitting defeat when replaced by Atdhe Nuhiu

Whoever does start at Hillsborough, Carlos Carvalhal will want his team to be more solid at set-pieces after Stoke’s goals came via a throw-in and free-kick.

Following on from Blackburn Rovers’ goals in last weekend’s 2-2 draw coming from corners, Loovens admits the Owls have to tighten up.

“We were a bit disappointed that Stoke scored twice from set-pieces,” he added.

“We did the same at Blackburn and we don’t want to be too soft from set-pieces. We can’t let teams take advantage of us. It is probably the only thing we have to work on.

“We have to learn from them. Sometimes, the little things can make the difference. Having said that, I thought the boys worked really hard and no-one can fault our effort. We should be proud of our run in this competition.”

Derby’s visit to Hillsborough is the first of seven games for Wednesday inside four weeks, a run that also includes meetings with Middlesbrough and Birmingham City. It is a potentially pivotal run, as Loovens concedes.

“We all know what December is about,” added the Dutchman. “It is game after game after game, but it is the same for everyone. We cannot use it as an excuse.”