Sheffield Wednesday manager Tony Pulis must solve the Jordan Rhodes enigma

Foiled: Jordan Rhodes fails to find a breakthrough.  Picture: Steve EllisFoiled: Jordan Rhodes fails to find a breakthrough.  Picture: Steve Ellis
Foiled: Jordan Rhodes fails to find a breakthrough. Picture: Steve Ellis
Tony Pulis wants to bolster his shot-shy Sheffield Wednesday strike force in the January transfer window.

Unfortunately, for the new Owls manager, he faces eight games in December – a run which could be pivotal in their battle to avoid relegation – and is armed with few attacking options.

Wednesday have scored just seven goals in 14 Championship games – one goal every two games – and, of those, two were penalties and one an own-goal.

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After another stalemate on Saturday against Stoke City – the Owls’ third 0-0 home draw in seven outings at S6 – their upcoming fixtures are certainly daunting. In-form Reading – featuring 12-goal Lucas Joao, the striker sold by the Owls last season – visit Hillsborough on Wednesday night before a trip to the Championship leaders Norwich City at the weekend.

At least striker Josh Windass will be available for the Carrow Road game, after serving a three-match ban, and how Wednesday need him.

Only Derby County keep Wednesday off the bottom of the Championship, and even forgetting about the minus six penalty the club are carrying, the Owls would still be in the bottom six on 14 points.

Against Stoke, neither side could conjure a goal.

Wednesday’s best moments came from Kadeem Harris – back in the side after serving a three-game suspension.

He had a sight of Joe Bursik’s goal but fired wide.

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His 36th-minute effort, a powerful low drive from 22 yards, was goalbound but John Obi Mikel showed all his experience to be in the right spot to hoof the ball off the line.

Both sides introduced strikers from the bench, but while Wales international Sam Vokes had several chances on goal for Stoke – only to be denied several times by the recalled Joe Wildsmith, with Keiren Westwood (groin) ruled out for several weeks – Wednesday’s Jordan Rhodes spent most of the second half chasing space and feeding on scraps.

Pulis was unimpressed, hauling off the substitute after 40 minutes and throwing on midfielder Izzy Brown.

It seemed harsh on Rhodes – Wednesday’s record signing was not alone in offering little in attack – who looked dejected as he trudged off the pitch.

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“I would be extremely disappointed if he is not disappointed,” said Pulis. “It’s not about Jordan; it’s about the team. I’m more concerned about the team than the individuals.”

Many managers have tried, and failed, to get the best out of Rhodes – who once netted four goals in a single game at Hillsborough, when playing for Huddersfield Town – in Owls colours.

But after just four goals from the 30-year-old in the last two seasons, one of Pulis’s biggest challenges, at least in the short term, is to try and coax a few more goals out of Rhodes before the January transfer window opens.

Rhodes certainly has the support of his team-mates.

“He was disappointed (at being substituted), everyone was disappointed we didn’t win,” said defender Julian Borner. “That’s normal.

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“Jordan has played a lot of games in the Championship, scored a lot of goals, he is an ‘old guy’ in football.

“One point was good, another clean sheet, but to win a game you need some goals. We had some chances, but we didn’t score.

“What’s the problem? I think it’s small things, we play a good passing game, but the last ball in the box or the final shot... We just need a goal. At this moment, it’s really tough.

“We have another chance on Wednesday, against Reading, a tough game, but we need points.

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“It will be a good game. I played with Lucas here for four weeks before he moved. He is a good player. He has scored a lot of goals, top scorer in the Championship. He has good technique, good speed, but we are hoping for three points.”

Borner possesses the fighting spirit which Wednesday will need in abundance during December.

The German was left out at the start of the season, but battled his way back into Garry Monk’s plan and has kept his place under Pulis. “I have a good mentality, I am a fighter, and I fought to get back in the squad. I have taken my chances” said Borner, who marked his 50th Owls appearance in the previous week’s 1-1 draw at Swansea City.

“I try to give my best in every game. He (Pulis) is a different manager to Garry Monk. At the moment we don’t have much time to train from match to match.

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“We are not in a good way, we need points, we started on minus 12, that went to minus six, which is good for the club.

“We can speak and speak, but we need to fight on the pitch and show everybody that we can get away from the bottom.”

Sheffield Wednesday: Wildsmith, Palmer, Lees, Borner, Van Aken, Shaw (Rhodes 45, Brown 85), Luongo, Bannan, Harris (Odubajo 83), Paterson, Reach. Unused substitutes: Dawson, Pelupessy, Penney, Dele-Bashiru, Hunt, Kachunga.

Stoke City: Bursik, Collins, Chester, Batth, Fox, Obi (Cousins 76), Clucas, Campbell, Powell, McClean (Brown 79), Gregory (Vokes 26). Unused substitutes: Lindsay, Ince, Smith, Oakley-Boothe, Tymon, Nna Noukeu.

Referee: T Robinson (Sussex).

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