Sheffield Wednesday 0 Norwich 0: Brilliant Westwood ensures Owls gain reward

Owls man of the match keeper Keiren WestwoodOwls man of the match keeper Keiren Westwood
Owls man of the match keeper Keiren Westwood
STUART GRAY is relaxed over the possibility of goalkeeper Kieren Westwood becoming a target of Premier League clubs when the transfer window opens in the New Year.

The Owls’ head coach is also delighted that his patience has finally paid dividends with the loan signing of striker Gary Taylor-Fletcher, who had a three-week trial at the club in the summer of 2013 when Dave Jones was in charge.

Westwood claimed the plaudits, and a damaged hip, for a performance which denied Norwich what would have been only their second win in eight games.

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Five top-class saves kept the Canaries at bay, three of them in a second half dominated by the visitors, who, however, were almost sunk as Taylor-Fletcher stretched out a leg to control a chip from Claude Dielna only to see John Ruddy rush out and pinch the ball off his toe.

It would have been a dream debut for Leicester’s Taylor-Fletcher, who came off the bench in the 57th minute – and who only signed at midnight on Friday – as he readily admitted.

“It was great to get back out on the field and play some football. I could have been the hero but I met it at full stretch and it was a great touch into the goalkeeper’s hands,” said Fletcher of his chance 11 minutes after entering the fray.

“I couldn’t have hit it first time, I know that as it was too far away from me to get anything on it.

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“I could have come here last year and I have been trying to get out on loan for a while as I want to play football. I have not had a chance at Leicester and I’m getting on at 33 so you want to be playing every game.

“I worked with Stuart when I was here on trial and I know he has been pestering Leicester for a while. I was back knocking on the door when I heard they were interested again because you don’t want to be in the stands sitting and watching.

“It was late Thursday night when I heard of Wednesday’s interest, but we did not get it done until 12 on Friday night which was not ideal as I was driving up and down the motorway from Leicester to Liverpool for two and a half hours and then an hour and a half from Liverpool to Sheffield so I’m glad it’s all done. I’m here for a month and then we’ll take it from there.”

The former Huddersfield Town and Blackpool striker, whom Gray has been trying to recruit since watching him in a pre-season game against Rotherham, explained his decision to join after being on trial for three weeks in the summer of 2013.

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“Stuart took training then and I enjoyed it and there are a lot of the players who were there then who are still here so it was quite easy to slot in. That was a big factor and the way Stuart is on the training pitch and as a person – I have a lot of time for him – was another.

“I said to Nigel (Leicester manager Pearson) “enough is enough” because it was not ideal training and playing for the Under-21s.

“It’s been frustrating because I felt really good in pre-season. I am feeling sharp and ready.

“The Championship is probably the toughest in Europe to get promoted from.

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“There are probably 12 or 13 teams who could be battling come the end of the season and you can’t say that about many leagues. If you get two or three wins on the bounce you are looking at the play-offs and that’s what we are going to be looking to do.

“All they are missing here is some confidence because they have some good players. We just need to try and believe that we are a good team. From what I have seen we are a good team. They just need that bit of belief and a win could kick-start something.”

Without Westwood, the Owls would surely have lost Saturday’s encounter and they are now seven games without a win.

Former Rotherham striker Lewis Grabban was the first to be thwarted by the Wednesday No 1, who rushed out to block his shot from eight yards before going full length to keep out a curling free-kick from Bradley Johnson.

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Wednesday also had a couple of chances before the break, Frenchman Dielna, given his first start in place of suspended left-back Joe Mattock, supplying two dangerous crosses. Atdhe Nuhiu headed the first wide and then cushioned a header from the second back across goal for Kieran Lee to control on his chest before volleying over.

Norwich, however, dominated the second period and Westwood went down to his left to keep out a downward header from Cameron Jerome before flinging himself to his right to push away a shot from Nathan Redmond.

Jerome then met a cross from the left with a rising first-time shot at the near post only to see Westwood fling up an arm to divert the ball over the bar. The pair were injured in a collision, but Gray says that Westwood should be fit for Saturday.

“The big clubs are always going to be looking if players are playing well and performing well,” said Gray. “What we have got is a goalkeeper who has been outstanding and consistent and we have Tom Lees who has been the same. Our back four is doing very well with the amount of clean sheets that we have got, but we need to start chipping in with goals at the other end.”

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Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood, Palmer, Lees, Loovens, Dielna (Maghoma 80); Maguire (Drenthe 57), Lee, Semedo, Helan; May, Nuhiu (Taylor-Fletcher 57). Unused substitutes: Kirkland, Coke, Madine, Hope.

Norwich City: Ruddy, Whittaker, Martin, Turner, Olsson; Tettey; Howson, Johnson (Redmond 67); Odjidja-Ofoe (O’Neill 46); Jerome, Grabban. Unused substitutes: Rudd, Hooper, Hooiveld, Miquel, Murphy.

Referee: S Attwell (Warwicks).