Garry Monk has told his Sheffield Wednesday players they have to work even harder now they have started to find form again.
The Owls stuttered in late October and November, taking three points from a possible 15. But they host Bristol City on Sunday unbeaten in their last five matches, winning three of them.
“It is good when you have got momentum but you have to fight even harder to keep it,” said manager Monk. “We have got a bit of momentum with the run of results we have had and it is about trying to extend that.
“It is a sign of a good team if you can do it, so that is the next challenge for us.”
At their best, Wednesday have shown they can compete with the Championship’s top teams but their five-match unbeaten sequence is already their longest this season.
It is a good time to be hitting form, with four league matches crammed in before the FA Cup third round on January 4, three at home.
As well as the Robins, Cardiff City and Hull City are also due at Hillsborough. Wednesday travel to relegation-threatened Stoke City on Boxing Day.
“It has been tough physically and mentally,” said Monk of his side’s recent run.
“The first part of the week has been recovery and the second part will be to work. We have to get ready. Each game is important.”
Lee Johnson’s Bristol City are only a point and two places behind Wednesday in the congested pack behind front two West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United. The Owls are fifth in the Championship.
Confidence is high at Hillsborough after Saturday’s excellent 4-0 win at Nottingham Forest, another of the play-off wannabes. All the Owls’ goals came in the first half, with Jordan Rhodes claiming a hat-trick from only his second start of the Championship campaign. It was a good way to set themselves up for one of the busiest periods of the season.
“I thought all of them were excellent on Saturday and it was the definition of doing your job at a really high level, both defensively and offensively,” reflected Monk.
“We controlled a really dangerous team and that is not an easy thing to do.
“All of the boys were excellent.”
Until last week Rhodes had been frozen out at Hillsborough, where the Owls need to keep a tight rein on their spending in January, Monk’s first transfer window since joining the South Yorkshire club.
Monk is expected to try to shuffle his pack of strikers in the new year, with Bristol Rovers striker Jonson Clarke-Harris mooted as a possible signing. If Scotland international Rhodes can continue his goalscoring form, it could possibly force a rethink, but Rhodes’s high wages will make him difficult to hang onto if his form attracts serious offers from elsewhere.
Wednesday are also under threat of a possible points deduction after being charged by the Football Association with misconduct over the sale and lease-back of their ground to a company controlled by owner Dejphon Chansiri. Chansiri used a loophole to help clubs get around the Football League’s profit and sustainability rules, but the way the deal was done and accounted for appears to have caused some discomfort with the authorities.
Wednesday plan to vigorously contest the charge.
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith says he needs to speak to Monk before deciding on his short-term future. Since his last Championship appearance in April 2018, he has only made two League Cup appearances.
With Cameron Dawson and Keiren Westwood competing for the No 1 spot at Hillsborough, Wildsmith is clearly third choice.
“I have to have a word with the gaffer first and see what his thoughts on the situation are,” said the 23-year-old.
“We’ll make a decision on that and what we want to do. If a loan move was there I’d obviously see it and have a chat about it. I’ve played a couple of games for the under-23s and I want to get a feeler about what the plan is for me.
“If that’s going out on loan, it’s going out on loan. If it’s staying here, it’s staying here. I’ll honour the gaffer’s decision on that.”
With Wednesday at Premier League Brighton and Hove Albion in the FA Cup, Wildsmith’s chances of a third-round appearance may have receded. The Owls were knocked out of the League Cup by Everton.