Sheffield Wednesday will fight to bitter end to create survival record, vows Josh Windass

SHOULD Sheffield Wednesday somehow retain their Championship status at the end of the season, the greatest of all ‘Great Escape’ acts – certainly in the second tier – will have transpired.

Victory: A win at last for delighted Joey Pelupessy and Josh Windass. Pictures: Steve Ellis

Since the three points for a win system was introduced in 1981, no second-tier side has headed into their final 10 league matches of a campaign with less than 30 points and managed to stay up.

Wednesday, who triumphed at Barnsley on Saturday to take their points total up to 32 with nine matches to go in 2020-21, will break new ground if they achieve that feat.

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Thankfully, Josh Windass and his team-mates are up for making a bit of history.

Well done: Sheffield Wednesday's Jordan Rhodes celebrates with Adam Reach aafter scoring their side's second goal.

Over the past decade, there have been three remarkable acts of escapology involving Yorkshire sides in the Championship and they also provide context as to what Owls must achieve.

With 10 games to go last season, Barnsley had 34 points. They stayed up, but in the final analysis, it was due to a 12-point penalty imposed upon Wigan Athletic for entering administration amid a chaotic time for the club as much as events on the pitch.

Back in 2012-13, the Reds had 41 points after 36 matches and famously survived on the final day on 55 points in a season when Peterborough United were relegated with 54 points. It was the highest total by a relegated team in Championship history.

Then there was Rotherham United’s Houdini act under Neil Warnock in 2015-16. With 10 games left, the Millers were six points better off than the Owls were at the same stage of this season.

No way: Barnsley player Callum Styles is challenged by Osaze Urhoghide. Picture: Simon Hulme

Off the pitch, it has been an unprecedented campaign for all Football League clubs due to the absence of supporters. On it, Wednesday must do something extraordinary to avoid dropping into the third tier for the first time in 11 years.

On talk that the Owls have left things too late, Windass provided the only response that anyone in his position could really give on Saturday.

He commented: “If we have left it too late, we might as well not play these next nine games and go home. We will keep fighting to the end and believe we can do it.

“If we did not beat Barnsley, we would have been in a lot more trouble than we are already in. It was a massive win that we needed and everybody knew that.

“With two weeks without a game, losing would have been a disaster for our mentality. To win gives us a bit of a boost and we can go into the last nine games with a lot of confidence.”

The fighting talk is admirable, but ultimately it is about deeds and not words.

Inflicting a first league defeat in 13 matches upon a high-flying Barnsley side who had won nine of their previous 10 games before Saturday represents a start, but that is all.

The extent of Wednesday’s mission is illustrated by their Easter programme following the international break with teak-tough appointments against Watford and Cardiff.

It is close to being as hard as it gets at Championship level at the minute. So was a game against Barnsley, in fairness.

Alongside being a performance of tactical awareness, discipline and coherence, it was just as much a display of character following an eight-match winless streak and damaging midweek draw against Huddersfield Town.

The Owls’ performance against a side in their neck of the woods in Town drew censure as did recent displays against the likes of Rotherham United, Birmingham City and Luton Town.

It will take more than one heartening showing against Barnsley to get back onside with fans. Windass and his team-mates would not say anything else.

Windass is happy to front up. Equally, he believes that accusations that players have lacked commitment and passion for the cause – the most damning indictment of any professional – is something that cannot be thrown at them and is unfair.

He said: “I think we have shown it in every game. Obviously, there have been games where we have just not been good enough.

“I blame myself and the players in how we have been performing and the position we are in. But this group have a lot of heart and talent as well and need to start showing that on a regular basis. Hopefully, in the next nine games, we can make people proud.

“I don’t think desire, commitment and work-rate has ever been a fault. You have seen against the hardest team we have played against in terms of style of play (in Barnsley) that we are a good team who can fight as well.”

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