Palmer is aiming to underline his value to Owls

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Sheffield Wednesday head for Spotland today desperate to avoid completing an unwanted Yorkshire hat-trick for League Two side Rochdale.

Former Barnsley manager Keith Hill has already seen his unfashionable side oust League One promotion-chasing Rotherham United and Championship side Leeds United from the FA Cup this season.

The Whites were giant-killing victims at the third-round stage, suffering a 2-0 loss in Lancashire, and Stuart Gray’s Wednesday know their seven-game unbeaten run will be tested this afternoon.

The Owls needed a replay in the last round to get beyond non-league Macclesfield Town, and Wednesday right-back Liam Palmer predicts another Cup battle today.

“Rochdale are on a good run themselves, scoring goals and picking up some good wins,” said Palmer. “They did well to come back from 2-0 down at Chesterfield in midweek. They will have their tails up, but so shall we.

“To knock out any Championship opposition means they will take confidence from that and believe they can do it again.

“We have to be wary of that and treat them with the right amount of respect. But we are the Championship team and need to impose our game.

“For Macclesfield and Rochdale, it’s one of the biggest games of their season to be playing us.

“It can be difficult at times and is a potential banana skin as we saw at Macclesfield. The main thing is not to lose the game – if needs be bring them back to Hillsborough, although we’d like to win at the first attempt.

“The incentive is there for both teams. At this stage, if we do beat Rochdale, we have got a good chance of drawing a Premier League team.”

Palmer celebrated four years at Hillsborough this month, and is already under his fourth manager in that spell, Stuart Gray following in the footsteps of Alan Irvive, Gary Megson and Dave Jones.

The 22-year-old, who plays predominantly midfield but is filling in for injured right-back Lewis Buxton in impressive fashion, was farmed to Tranmere Rovers on loan last season.

He has grabbed his Hillsborough chance this campaign, growing into the right-back role, and making 24 appearances so far this season.

“Life is good at the minute,” he said. “I am playing regular, at the minute, and that’s all anybody wants to do. I’m enjoying every game and looking forward to the next one. Now I have come back, been a regular this season, it’s been good. It’s a different group of lads to what I was used to before I went away on loan. I have come back and feel I am slotting in nicely now.”

Palmer believes his time at Prenton Park last year helped him mature and return to Wednesday pushing for a first-team spot.

Even when Buxton returns from injury, Palmer hopes he has done enough to stay in the Owls line-up.

“Just playing the amount of games stood me in good stead to become a regular at Sheffield Wednesday,” said Worksop-born Palmer. “It helped me grow on the pitch, as well as off it. Lewis is a fantastic player, I have learned a lot from watching him, and, obviously, he got the ‘Player of the Year’ award last season.

“Obviously, he is going to come back in and whether I play a different position, that remains to be seen. I am really enjoying right-back but at first I played there a handful of times and was a bit sceptical, like a lot of people were.

“Now I have played there, got my head round it, I am really enjoying it. I played centre midfield last season and I think it’s good that you have a few positions.”

Palmer earned the Owls a point at Burnley last weekend in a 1-1 draw, clearing off the line with goalkeeper Chris Kirkland beaten, to stretch his side’s unbeaten run to seven matches in all competitions.

“We are on a nice little run, not lost in seven, and just want to keep that going as long as we can,” he said.

“You take heart from games like Burnley, where a lot of the time we were under the cosh but showed good resilience. To come out with a point against a team that’s been up there all season – and will be probably come the end – puts confidence quite high.”

Top scorer Connor Wickham misses out today, under the terms of his loan move from Sunderland, and talks will be held next week to try and extend the striker’s stay until the summer.

Black Cats manager Gus Poyet will sit down with Wickham, whose last game is due to be Tuesday’s Championship trip to Millwall, next week to discuss his future.

Owls chief Gray confirmed: “We want to extend it, I have spoke to Gus (Poyet) and am waiting for them to come back to us. Connor is very keen to stay, so fingers crossed a deal can be thrashed out with Sunderland.”

Gray missed out on signing Billy Sharp this week, along with two other striker targets, after the former Sheffield United forward opted to join Doncaster Rovers on loan from Southampton.

The Owls want to bring in two strikers to bolster their squad, but hopes of bringing Matty Fryatt back to Hillsborough on loan seem to be fading.

Tigers chief Steve Bruce has said he is unlikely to allow any more Hull players leave, after Nick Proschwitz joined Barnsley on loan, to follow the likes of Tom Cairney, Cameron Stewart and Aaron Mclean out of the KC Stadium.

Gray, though, will persevere even if it means waiting until the loan market re-opens after the closure of the January transfer window.

“Matty is Hull City’s player, he’s getting off the bench,” said Gray. “Whether that will change now with Shane Long signing, again that’s down to Hull City.

“But with someone of Matty’s quality, we would definitely be interested. Questions have been asked, we are just waiting on answers.”