Pitch battle underlines trouble Owls are facing in front of goal

Sheffield Wednesday boss Stuart Gray.
Sheffield Wednesday boss Stuart Gray.
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AS half-time instructions go, Gary Rowett admitted to being embarrassed by what he urged his Birmingham City players to do on Tuesday night in Hillsborough’s away dressing room.

“Listen,” started the Blues chief, “just kick the ball as far as you can down the pitch and play for seconds. Try and see if you can land on something and break.”

Sheffield Wednesday’s much-maligned playing surface was the reason for the rather crude instruction, the pitch having been so heavy in the first half that both the hosts and Birmingham had huge difficulty doing even the most basic of things.

Matters got little better after the break, hence why it was no surprise when the final whistle blew and neither team had made the all-important breakthrough.

It continued the Owls’ struggles in S6, Stuart Gray’s men having scored just seven goals in 14 games – by far the worst home record in the Championship.

Gray does not need telling just how difficult the Hillsborough pitch is proving this term.

However, he is also adamant that Wednesday cannot afford to get hung-up on the state of the surface with 27 points still to play for on home soil this term.

“The pitch is not the best, but we have to learn how to get results on it,” said the Owls chief.

“We have got another nine home games so we have to find a way of beating teams on it. We don’t want to use it as an excuse.

“I want us to get the ball down and play but the players are tensing up because the ball is bouncing all over the place.

“It is hard to get the ball under the control. The players have got to trust themselves.”

Gray, meanwhile, has declared himself satisfied with how loanees Will Keane and Lewis Baker fared on their debuts against Birmingham.