Sheffield Wednesday v Cardiff City - Owls taking flexible approach

DARREN MOORE says a fortnight’s international break has left him with more ideas up his sleeve for Sheffield Wednesday’s run-in and they will need them after the survival equation got tougher at the weekend.

Injury concern: Tom Lees at Vicarage Road. Picture: David Klein/Sportimage

Moore missed Friday’s 1-0 Championship defeat at Watford after testing positive for Covid-19, and is therefore more than likely to be absent for today’s visit Hillsborough of Mick McCarthy’s Cardiff City, too.

But it was noticeable he was far more hands-on than when the then-Doncaster Rovers manager missed FA Cup and Football League Trophy matches last year because he was self-isolating.

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Moore was in constant communication with coach Paul Williams throughout the Good Friday game. His assistant, Jamie Smith, took the team, the sixth person to do that in a match this season.

IDEAS MAN: Sheffield Wednesday manager Darren Moore Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA

So whether Moore is there or not, his fingerprints will be all over the Owls team.

He threw a surprise by playing Callum Paterson as a right wing-back at Vicarage Road, and the Scot is not the only player he has spoken to about using in a different position as he looks for the Owls squad to show the full range of their flexibility.

“I’ve looked at one or two playing different roles for the team and I’ve had a chat with individuals to help them understand those roles and how I see them because it’s important the individuals get a level of understanding in case the opportunity does come to play that role or we suffer an adversity in the game,” he said, speaking to the media before his positive test.

“We might need to put players on the pitch and rejig the shape, so they need to be more than capable of doing it.

TOUGH TO TAKE: Sheffield Wednesday's Osaze Urhoghide tackles Joao Pedro at Vicarage Road. Picture: David Klein/Sportimage

“I’ve had a chat with two or three players who I feel can change position to benefit the squad and the team and if it needs be in the next few weeks that I need to utilise it, I won’t hesitate.”

Moore’s Doncaster players were expected to be equally adaptable in terms of positions, but he was wedded to a 4-2-3-1 formation. He started his time at Hillsborough with it, but has since used a back three formation, too, giving him more ways of keeping the opposition guessing.

Birmingham City’s unexpected win over Swansea City was a further blow to Wednesday’s hopes of staying up. Coventry City are now directly above the relegation zone, and have a seven-point lead over the Owls from the same number of games. With Wednesday’s televised game not kicking off until 5.30pm, Mark Robins’s men have the opportunity to extend that further if they can take anything at home to Bristol City.

Rotherham United’s three games in hand on the Sky Blues, four points ahead of them, means in theory there could be even more ground to make up.

Moore, then, has no choice but to constantly look for extra advantages he can eke out of his squad. As usual when a team is in this situation, there is a clamour from some sections of the support to give youth a chance and although the manager resisted against the Hornets, he said they are helping to raise the intensity of training.

“They’ve got the talent and the ability,” he said. “They’ve come in and been part of the first-team training and it’s giving them messages about the trust in them and them contributing as well because they’re good enough. It’s giving them a platform on the pitch where they feel safe and secure. I want them to express themselves and show what they’re about.

“I think there’s more to come from them and they keep developing. Certainly for them to be training with us on a day-to-day basis is great.”

Tom Lees, the unwitting scorer of Friday’s controversial goal, will be assessed after coming off with a tight calf. Liam Shaw replaced him, having missed the defeat at Barnsley through injury.

Goalkeeper Keiren Westwood is back in training but Smith explained: “Keiren is still having a problem with his ribs. We’re working daily with him.”

With Cameron Dawson not expected to play again this season, teenager Lee Jackson provided cover for Joe Wildsmith.

Last six games: Sheffield Wednesday LWDLLL; Cardiff City LWDLDW

Referee: D Webb (County Durham)

Last time: Sheffield Wednesday 1 Cardiff City 2, December 29, 2019, Championship.

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