Sheffield Wednesday v Charlton: Moore the merrier as injury list starts to shrink

We are reaching the stage of the season where bodies and minds are starting to get tired in the Football League yet still there is a long way to go. Perhaps there could even be a positive from the injuries which have hit Sheffield Wednesday in this arduous League One season if it means reinforcements back for the run-in.

Lewis Gibson came off the bench at Doncaster Rovers and will be hoping he did enough to earn a first start since early October at home to Charlton Athletic this afternoon. Fellow centre-back Dominic Iorfa played for the Under-23s this week.

Chey Dunkley is back in training and although Lee Gregory’s foot injury is still niggling away, the hope is the top-scorer might soon be available too.

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In this season at this club, you can never rule out more players joining an interminable injury list but with 13 matches to squeeze into March and April –and hopefully something needed in the tank for the play-offs – it could be a decisive factor.

Owls Lewis Gibson making his Hillsborough debut. Picture: Steve Ellis

“We want to add to the squad,” says manager Darren Moore, who has ruled out doing so with free agents because of the time needed to get up to speed.

“If we can add more bodies in the next few weeks with the way March and April are it can only help us. There will be three- or four-day periods between games to prepare so you want bodies so if there are strains or fatigue, you’ve got the options to change.

“Those individuals coming back will have a positive effect on training. To have them back is great for them and to do it when the team’s vibrant in terms of confidence and results is great for them as well. It can only help speed up their recoveries from injury because the training has a tempo and energy that is higher.”

Gibson has been the first.

Owls' Lewis Gibson beats Bolton Wanderers' Elias Kachunga. Picture: Steve Ellis

There were times before Christmas when it looked like his Wednesday career might be over. On a season-long loan from Everton, the 21-year-old picked up a muscular injury in only his second appearance and the gloomier prognoses led both clubs to consider whether they should cut their losses in January.

“You can see by his stature and persona he’s really loving being back on the pitch,” says Moore.

“Any footballer will tell you, the best thing is being fit out there training and competing and Lewis is certainly at that stage now. He probably feels he’s ready to compete for a full 90 minutes and get his consistency going.”

With Iorfa back too, Sam Hutchinson recovered from the injury which kept him out last week, Liam Palmer fit and Jordan Storey excelling since joining on loan from Preston North End last month, left-sided centre-back Gibson will have a fight on his hands to win a place in a position where at one stage the Owls did not have a single fit specialist, so it was probably just as well he made his mark when he came off the bench at Doncaster, pulling the ball back for the Saido Berahino goal which put the Owls in front en route to a 3-1 win.

“It’s almost the icing on the cake when your centre-back has the ability to do that,” says Moore, who also played in the heart of defence. “We knew he was a young defender, an excellent defender, an exciting defender and I’m really pleased to have him at the club. He brings a wonderful balance to our left-hand side.

“I’m really pleased for him because it’s been a really long road and for him to have an impact like that at Doncaster. I thought the timing of his headers was good and when he did venture up there (into Doncaster’s final third) he’s got the elegance to pick a pass and see the game.”

Never speak too soon in this most erratic division but on the back of five wins from six games, it feels like the Owls might be getting stronger at just the right time.