Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland: Owls players ‘need to get their house in order’

A GRADUATE in Sports and Exercise Science, Chey Dunkley is a smart individual and a pretty good talker.

In that vein, the Sheffield Wednesday defender admirably fronted up after Saturday’s bittersweet afternoon in the spa town of Cheltenham.

It followed a game when the last thing that most Owls players probably wanted to do was engage with media after their capacity for conceding ill-timed late goals struck again in a 2-2 draw.

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Tantalisingly poised to secure their first league win from a losing position on the road since 2016, Wednesday instead succumbed to a bitter twist when the hosts equalised in injury time through Matty Blair, son of ex-Owls midfielder Andy.

It took their concession of points from winning positions in 2021-22 into double-figure territory. Ten in total; a thoroughly damning statistic.

There was ‘heavy debate’ afterwards in an angry and deeply-frustrated dressing room according to Dunkley, whose pleasure at scoring his first goal for the club was negated by events in stoppage-time.

Those events heaped further pressure upon the big shoulders of manager Darren Moore, a good man who is being let down by his players at the minute, according to a searingly-honest Dunkley.

Moore, his staff and players, head into tonight’s game with Sunderland with targets on their backs if things go wrong following a run of just two victories in their past 11 league matches.

Sheffield Wednesday duo Chey Dunkley and Marvin Johnson. Picture: Steve Ellis

For Dunkley, it is about everyone getting their ‘house in order’ as he succinctly puts it. The time for talking is over in many respects.

On whether the players are letting Moore down, he commented: “You could say that. Especially against Cheltenham... We were in a 2-1 position in the 90th minute.

“What you see with the gaffer is he will always protect us. We should be doing it on the pitch.

“I don’t really want to get into what people are saying about the gaffer, me or whatever.

Wednesday defender Chey Dunkley. Picture: Steve Ellis

“I know what the task is at hand and I have got to focus on that whether it is praise or negativity. It is a collective.

“I have to get my house in order and all the other players and the squad need to get their house in order.”

Wednesday may be playing for their manager’s future over the coming games, but as Dunkley perceptively acknowledged, they are also playing for themselves.

The table may show that the Owls’ current position of eighth is far from disastrous at this stage of the season.

Neither is it scintillating and a defeat tonight could, in theory, leave them closer to the bottom four than to the play-off spots.

It has the look of an important evening in the tenure of Moore against a Sunderland side who are reeling after a brutal weekend themselves – following a 5-1 evisceration on the other side of the Tinsley Viaduct at in-form Rotherham United.

Just like at Whaddon Road, the away dressing room at the AESSEAL New York Stadium was not a place to be early on Saturday evening.

Dunkley, who was the Owls’ sole fit and recognised centre-half on Saturday with the fitness of Sam Hutchinson and Dominic Iorfa being assessed ahead of tonight’s game, added: “We have to turn things around, not just for him (Moore), but for ourselves.

“The personnel on paper is a team that should be dominating League One.

“But it is not just about on paper. It is about going out and performing and doing it.

“We are not doing that. We have had draws, but we should be winning.”

Wednesday’s form represents the proverbial ‘curate’s egg.’

They may have won just twice in the league since August 21, but conversely, Moore’s side – who have Josh Windass, Massimo Luongo, George Byers and Lewis Gibson all still on the sidelines – have also lost just once in nine League One matches.

Unfortunately, the draw count is starting to stack up and if they continue at a rate of knots, they will prove fateful for Moore.

The five-point gap between Wednesday and the play-off positions simply cannot be allowed to increase. For everyone’s sake.

Dunkley continued: “It is two wins in 11. You can make stats look however you want.

“We are unbeaten for a while. You can flip it on its head.

“We are clearly frustrated. We didn’t get the win and it feels like a loss, but we have to dust ourselves and go again on Tuesday.

“What is helping us at the moment is that teams aren’t capitalising just like us. We find ourselves going up in the table (on Saturday) with a point.

“We are fortunate for that because we should be up there, but teams aren’t capitalising.”

That said, Wednesday cannot keep pushing their luck. Or conceding expensive late goals either.

Last six games: Sheffield Wednesday WWDDDD; Sunderland WWWLDL.

Referee: C Hicks (Surrey).

Last time: Sheffield Wednesday 1 Sunderland 1, August 16, 2017; Championship.