Sheffield Weds v Preston: Owls back to basics as they aim to rebuild Hillsborough fortress

Ross Wallace claims Sheffield Wednesday have had to return to basics to try to cure their troubles.

Sheffield Wednesday's Ross Wallace with Wolverhampton's Jon Dadi Bodvarsson. (Picture: Steve Ellis).
Sheffield Wednesday's Ross Wallace with Wolverhampton's Jon Dadi Bodvarsson. (Picture: Steve Ellis).

The Owls are only a point off the Championship play-off spots in seventh, but results have been mixed.

Last season, Hillsborough was something of a fortress with just two home defeats helping the Owls clinch a play-off spot.

But this time, head coach Carlos Carvalhal’s side have already lost more games at home – three, against Leeds United, Brighton and Ipswich Town – after just eight matches in S6.

The latest of those, against Ipswich, was their last outing at Hillsborough, but since then the Owls have picked up four points from trips to in-form Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Three of their next four games are at Hillsborough, and Scottish winger Wallace explained they have “pulled it back to the bare bones” to try to identify what has gone wrong.

They have tightened up at the back, defending from the front with the likes of Fernando Forestieri discovering the form which made him one of the Championship’s top strikers last year.

“We have started to dig in a bit deeper, defend first and then let the quality come in,” Wallace told The Yorkshire Post. “Maybe we have been relying on our ability a bit more to get us through games.

“We have pulled it back to the bare bones; defend first and when it opens up again we can hurt teams.

“Points-wise the top two are catchable. But I think we are just looking to get our performances right first, get comfortable with the way we are playing.

“In the last two away games, we have played some good stuff and defended as a team a lot better.

“We have been working on team shape, defending from the front, and maybe we came away from that for a few weeks and relied on our pure ability.

“In the second half at Wolves, they came at us and we had Lucas (Joao) running channels, (Steven) Fletcher coming on and putting himself about. That’s what we have been working on.

“We were a bit of a surprise package last time, nobody got to grips with the way we played.

“This season, other teams are coming and setting up to try and cancel us out. We have to find ways to adapt, different ways to get behind teams and hurt them.

“Teams are probably coming a little bit more defensive, so they are harder to break down.

“We have to come up with a game plan to deal with that.

“We all need to be patient, as we try and open teams up.

“In the Wolves game in the first half, we got behind them countless times and that’s what we have been working on, a counter-attacking style.”

Wednesday have scored 20 goals in 18 outings this term – making them one of the division’s lowest scorers – meaning a lot of positives regarding their approach play and stylish football have been overlooked.

Forestieri has netted in back-to-back games at Fulham and Wolves and is starting to look like the striker with whom Derby County were linked regarding a £10m summer move.

With top scorer Gary Hooper out injured, Forestieri will shoulder the responsibility of continuing his goals run, alongside fit-again Joao and Fletcher as the Owls embark in a busy December packed with six Championship matches.

Wallace said: “It was good to win at Wolves, I thought we played some good stuff, especially in the first half.

“We had a lot of chances, got in good positions, but the main thing was we got that second goal, which killed them. I think we have played well all season, it’s just been getting that second goal to kill games off that hasn’t been coming and then they have equalised.

“We are happy with how we are playing, two away games, four points, and a home game coming up – things are looking up.

“The majority of the time we have been playing well, but lapses in concentration have cost us. It’s a busy month coming up, a lot of points to play for, and an important month in the season.

“We have virtually a fully-fit squad, although we have lost Hooper and that is a big blow.

“I thought Lucas was outstanding last week, to come straight back into the team. He was magnificent and we have competition up front for places.

“Christmas is always a massive period. We want to come out of Christmas in a good position so we can attack the second half of the season. That’s the target for us.

“The Ipswich game was disappointing, but apart from that I think we have been playing reasonably well at home. Our form has been pretty good.

“We have three home games coming up and need to take the positives out of our last two performances.”

Wallace, 31, has been in and out of the team this season following the arrival of Adam Reach, a club record £5m signing from Middlesbrough. But with Reach filling in at left-back, Wallace looked impressive at Fulham and Wolves.

He was a key part of the Owls’ midfield last year – netting seven goals – but is yet to get off the mark this campaign.

“I feel good, sharp, and when the manager wants me to play, I am ready to come in and give it everything I have got,” said Wallace. “There’s a big squad, and if you are not playing well you are not going to get in the team, it’s as simple as that.

“I am playing with a bit more width than I did at the start of the season, a few tweaks, but apart from that I think I am playing decent stuff.”

Today, Wallace comes up against his former side Preston, featuring former Owls loanee Aiden McGeady, and is expecting a tough game at Hillsborough.

Wallace, who was at Deepdale between 2008-10, said: “I think they are doing absolutely magnificent. The manager has come in and dragged them up the leagues and they are very difficult to beat.”