Garry Monk has seen enough in his first 10 games in charge to be optimistic about Sheffield Wednesday’s Championship prospects this season.
Two late sloppy goals – after Jacob Murphy had put the visitors in front on 83 minutes – saw the Owls suffer a 2-1 defeat at Blackburn Rovers last weekend.
I can only speak for the 10 games I have had, but the players have given a huge amount of effort in all those 10 games and we should have taken points in every single game.Garry Monk
That does not detract from the fact that Monk has impressed since arriving at Hillsborough in September.
He inherited a team who were reeling after back-to-back league defeats to Preston North End and QPR, quickly bringing his own style of play to the club.
Wednesday boast the second best defensive record in the Championship – only Leeds United have let in fewer goals, eight to the Owls’ 12 – and sit seventh.
In Monk’s first 10 games, he has won four, drawn three and lost three – including a 2-0 League Cup exit to Everton.
Apart from that cup defeat, Monk’s Owls have been competitive in every game, leaving the manager to rue points which have slipped away.
With the exception of the 4-1 win at Middlesbrough, the Owls have played the percentage game, rather than blow the opposition off the park.
Monk explained his plan at Ewood Park was to keep the game tight for the first hour, then open up and grab a goal.
Monk’s tactics have brought 1-0 wins against Wigan Athletic and Stoke City, but there has also been frustration at what might have been in draws with Fulham, Leeds United and Cardiff City – plus Saturday’s defeat.
It may need more emphasis on attack – and gaining that all-important second goal – for the Owls to improve their win ratio and challenge for a top-two finish rather than a play-off spot.
Wednesday have scored just 19 goals in 15 games, meaning they have the worst goals output of the top 11 teams in the Championship.
In contrast, no team has conceded fewer home goals than Wednesday in the Championship this season – just three in seven games – and two of those came in their only league loss at Hillsborough, a 2-1 defeat to QPR in August.
It is a balancing act Monk is looking to perfect, but the Owls chief, who welcomes former club Swansea City to Hillsborough on Saturday, is happy with his first two months in charge at S6.
“I can only speak for the 10 games I have had, but the players have given a huge amount of effort in all those 10 games and we should have taken points in every single game,” said Monk.
“That’s the good thing, to know we are good enough to win games and take points from every single opposition.
“Lessons need to be learned but that’s part of moving forward together.”
Wednesday could have been heading into the weekend in fifth spot, after Murphy’s late header at Ewood Park. But, for the first time since Monk arrived, the Owls were guilty of switching off and gifting Blackburn two goals and all three points.
It means since the last international break, Wednesday have picked up just five points out of a possible 12.
“It’s the first time we have seen that,” reflected Monk on that late collapse in Lancashire. “I expected us to close the game out, I think we all did.
“A couple of individual errors cost us.
“It happens. We can’t accept that but they are experienced players and that was very uncharacteristic.
“It’s happened and we have to take that on the chin. The lads have been fantastic, and Saturday was a very harsh result on the players.
“The pleasing thing is in all 10 games we have been in situations to take points. Even the Hull game, we should have taken points from every single game we have played in.
“We should have taken three points (at Blackburn) but we are talking about a five-minute spell, and it shouldn’t over-ride what we have been doing. But we have to learn a lesson here.
“It’s not intentional, but in critical moments we have made a couple of mistakes and it’s cost us,” said Monk.
“The players are disappointed, they had worked their socks off to get us in that position. We fought very hard, we knew it was going to be a tough game.
“We dust ourselves down, take it on the chin, and show a reaction.”
Monk has been unable to call on captain Tom Lees since arriving at Hillsborough, but the central defender returned after a hamstring injury to play an hour for the Under-23s this week.
Lees has played in just five games this season, last featuring at Preston on August 24.
“I just enjoy playing football and sometimes you take that for granted, so when it’s taken away, you realise how much you miss it,” he said.
“I’ve been doing a lot of running and fitness work but a game is completely different and I’m pleased I’ve come through the injury feeling okay so that’s good.”