DAVE JONES is ready to enter the loan market to land a goal-hungry striker if Sheffield Wednesday’s attack continues to misfire – and is also prepared to ship out players to free up funds to do so.
The Hillsborough manager, whose side face a tough televised encounter at second-placed Middlesbrough this evening, remains relatively happy with the defensive and creative aspects of the Owls’ displays at present, but admits he is seeking ‘the final piece of the jigsaw’ up front to provide a much-needed cutting edge.
Whether the answer comes from within the club or outside is a moot point at the moment, with just one recognised forward in Jay Bothroyd having found the net for Wednesday in their past six outings, with their current top-scorer in the Championship being loan midfielder Ross Barkley, with four.
But Jones, who watched on as frustratedly as the Owls spurned a number of chances in Tuesday night’s 2-0 home loss to Blackpool – the story of their season so far in many respects – is preparing to act if things do not change quickly.
Jones, who will assess the fitness of midfielder Paul Corry this morning ahead of the Riverside test, said: “Strikers are the players who get paid the most. They are the ones who give you success or not.
“Unfortunately, at the moment, we are creating and getting in good positions, but not putting chances away.
“Jay, Cog (Chris O’Grady), Gary Madine and Rodri are all here to score goals; you cannot get away from that fact.
“We need the final piece of the jigsaw. We might have to go out and find someone who is going to score goals; we are not putting it past that.
“We might have to move people out to bring others in to add to it. There is no hiding from that. If that is what needs to be done, that is what we will do.
“We need to put the ball in the back of the net. That has been our problem this season.
“Knowing the amount of entries (balls) we had in their box (on Tuesday), people would be absolutely horrified that we could not put one of them away.
“We had 39 entries in the first half and we thought we did not play well – and we had 41 in the second half and we did play well.
“We have stopped conceding sloppy goals and have sorted out that department. Now we need to score.”
Many of the seats that have been empty at Boro home games since they dropped back into the Championship could be filled this evening, with the club expecting a healthy 20,000-plus gate after reducing ticket prices in an attempt to entice the Teesside public back to the Riverside.
For many, it will be their first glimpse of Tony Mowbray’s side for a good while after voting with their feet in recent years with expectation levels suddenly high again in this corner of the North East after an unbeaten eight-match run in all competitions.
Boro have won six of those games and seek to go top for the first time in 14 months.
Jones famously donned the role of party-pooper on Teesside back in March 2008, when the then top-flight hosts – with their path seemingly opened up to the FA Cup final with a host of big-hitters knocked out – slumped to a dismal last-eight exit to his Cardiff City side in front of a near full house, a game shown live on the BBC.
Back in March 1997, Jones’s Stockport County side also failed to read the script in front of another expectant bumper Riverside crowd, with the visitors claiming a televised 1-0 victory in the second leg of their League Cup semi-final, with the Cheshire outfit desperately unlucky to miss out on a place at Wembley after a 2-1 aggregate loss.
While Jones’s current club have lost all five of their previous visits to the Riverside, he is hoping to make it an uncomfortable night for the home faithful for a third time in front of the TV cameras.
Jones, whose side produced an impressive display in their recent televised encounter with Leeds United exactly three weeks ago, added: “Backsides on seats are important to any football club and they (Boro) have hit near top spot now and will be wanting to fill that stadium.
“It is a big stadium to fill with a great atmosphere.
“We should thrive on that as we will be taking a lot of fans as well. We will not go there and roll down and just say, ‘Go and do what you want’. We want to do well.
“They will probably come out like a house on fire and Friday night games always seem to be a bit special and this will be no different.
“I would be very disappointed if every player at this football club was not up for that because that is what we have worked so hard for.
“It is not about picking up your wage packets. These are the type of games you want to play in and gives you a buzz and gets your adrenalin going, and the reason why you play the game.”
Boro, who report no fresh injury concerns for tonight’s game, have parted company with ex-captain Matthew Bates, who rejected a new deal following his return to fitness after a cruciate ligament injury.