Sheff Weds 0 Nottm Forest 1: Nuhiu can cap it all by helping Owls to challenge

GOALKEEPER Keiren Westwood and striker Stevie May head off on international duty this week – and team-mate Atdhe Nuhiu should be joining them, believes Sheffield Wednesday midfield man Giles Coke.

Sheffield Wednesday's Atdhe Nuhiu looks disappointed at the final whistle against Nottingham Forest (Picture: Steve Ellis).

Kosova-born target man Nuhiu went the closest to pegging back unbeaten Nottingham Forest, but is still waiting for his senior Austria call after figuring for their Under-21s.

Coke believes it will not be long before he is absent from Sheffield during international breaks along with the Republic of Ireland’s Westwood and Scotland Under-21 May.

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The 6ft 6ins striker has scored four times this season and would have had a fifth in stoppage-time had not Karl Darlow tipped over his curling effort from the edge of the area and had not Jack Hunt cleared off the line as the Owls threw men forward in a vain attempt to preserve their own unbeaten record.

Nuihu, whose family moved to Austria when he was one, joined the Owls on a three-year deal in July, 2013 but it is only now that Wednesday are getting the best out of him.

Coke said: “You can see now you have a fitter, stronger striker. He’s a completely different player to last season, I feel.

“You can see the rewards of the hard work he has put in during pre-season. It is paying off and all the credit goes to him because he has worked hard on finishing, diet, weights, everything.

“There is no reason why he can’t be up there on the 15- to 20-goal mark this season. He is a big, big force up there and a threat for any side.

“So we are really happy to have him and let’s hope he picks up where he left off after the international break. I don’t know much about the Austrian national team, but if he keeps playing like he is there is no reason why he won’t be knocking on the door.”

Another reason why neither Nuhiu nor May hit the target in Saturday’s televised lunchtime encounter was the accomplished display of visiting central defender Michael Mancienne, whom older Forest and Owls fans will have spotted bears a resemblance to England’s finest defender of the late Eighties and early Nineties, Des Walker, who graced both clubs.

‘You’ll never beat Des Walker’ was a famous chant that could easily be adapted for Mancienne, whom Forest chief Stuart Pearce had in his England Under-21 squads and who has just returned from a three-year stint with Hamburg in Germany.

“He has very, very similar traits to a young Des Walker,” said forest chief Pearce.

“If he can emulate half of what Des achieved, and I know he has a burning ambition to play for England at senior level, he’ll be some player.

“Bear in mind he is a young man who left Chelsea and went to play in Germany.

“We have very few of our footballers who want to go and play abroad and put their neck on the line.

“He has spent a long time in Germany and that has benefited him as a footballer and as a man as well.

“Do I think he is good enough to play in the Premier League? One hundred per cent, yes. I think he is good enough to play in the Premier League in a red Forest shirt, though.”

Pearce’s side top the Championship table with 13 points from five games but should have been behind in the second minute when Liam Palmer threaded the ball down the right channel and Chris Maguire should have shot.

Instead, he squared the ball and Mancienne slid in to avert the danger before May could strike.

Although the Owls continued to press, Forest looked a dangerous side on the break and it was former Wednesday winger Michail Antonio who unlocked the defence in the 37th minute, holding off Palmer before curling over a cross which Henri Lansbury converted with a downward header as he raced between two defenders.

Wednesday pressed after the break but May blazed wide as he went down the left channel after being freed by Nuhiu and then the Scot tested Darlow with a shot from outside the area.

The Forest goalkeeper then dropped a corner, but reacted quickly to fling up an arm and divert a stinging shot from Chris Maguire, set up by Wednesday captain Glenn Loovens, whose fifth booking of the season means he misses the next match at Bolton.

Forest became camped close to their area and were surprisingly disappointing on the counter-attack, but Wednesday could still not break through.

Former Forest player and Owls chief Stuart Gray rang the changes, including giving an 85th-minute debut to young Everton loanee striker Hallam Hope, but Forest’s goal led a charmed life in the five minutes of stoppage-time.

However, the way they threw bodies on the line suggest they possess a team in the image of their manager and one which will challenge throughout the season.

The Owls are not far behind, however, and Gray has strengthened his defence by signing Frenchman Claude Dielna, 26, on a free transfer, subject to international clearance, following his release by Olympiakos.

Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood, Palmer, Lees, Loovens, Mattock (Hope 85); Maguire (Helan 78), Semedo (Madine 64), Coke, Maghoma; May, Nuhiu. Unused substitutes: Kirkland, McCabe, Zayatte, Corry.

Nottingham Forest: Darlow, Hunt, Mancienne, Hobbs (Lascelles 73), Lichaj; Cohen; Burke, Reid, Antonio (Fryatt 78); Lansbury (Tesche 67); Assombalonga. Unused substitutes: De Vries, Fox, Veldwijk, Osborn.

Referee: G Salisbury (Lancs).