West Bromwich Albion v Sheffield Wednesday '“ Owls aiming for some more payback under Lee Bullen

A PROUD man who bleeds blue and white, Lee Bullen's satisfaction in doing his bit to provide Sheffield Wednesday with a little souvenir from a terrible year will have run deep on Boxing Day.

Owls caretaker manager Lee Bullen: Aiming for another victory.

This famed festive date has been a benevolent one for the Owls in recent times and so it proved again with Wednesday’s excellent 1-0 victory at Middlesbrough being the club’s fifth successive win on December 26.

How all and sundry at Hillsborough must be be wishing that it could be Boxing Day every day.

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Unfortunately time stands still for no man or club especially in the ever-changing Championship world where fortunes can oscillate in the space of a week as Bullen knows only too well.

The 47-year-old assumed caretaker duties a year to the day earlier to preside over another away-day to savour as Owls started off the post-Carlos Carvalhal world with a 3-0 triumph at Nottingham Forest last Christmas.

Back-to-back defeats to Brentford and – rather more damningly – Burton followed instantly with that feeling of Boxing Day exhilaration quickly forgotten.

It remains to be seen how long Bullen’s latest temporary spell in charge of the Owls lasts, with former Aston Villa and Hull City manager Steve Bruce widely expected to make his return to management with Wednesday in early January once he returns from a pre-planned family holiday.

But Scot Bullen can at least be secure in the knowledge that he has provided the club with a welcome spot of breathing space by way of relieving wins over Boro and Preston, which have fortified the buffer between themselves and the bottom three.

Sheffield Wednesday goalscorer Adam Reach against his former club (Picture: Steve Ellis)

Whatever happens at The Hawthorns today Bullen should emerge with credit when the baton is passed onto the next permanent manager, most likely Bruce.

Back-to-back victories in the league – registered for the first time since late August – mean that Wednesday will head to West Bromwich not in trepidation, but with a spot of pressure released from their previous sagging and heavy shoulders.

By way of useful extra motivation they also have a score to settle this afternoon.

Wednesday were dramatically pegged back in the reverse fixture at S6 as the Baggies scored twice in the last five minutes to claim a flattering point in a 2-2 draw.

After avenging their autumnal home loss to Boro on Boxing Day, the Owls’ desire for further payback should not be downplayed against another home side firmly positioned in the upper echelons of the table in Albion.

As with Boro, Albion are under pressure to try to keep in touch with the top-two pace being relentlessly set by Leeds United and Norwich City.

Bullen – with more than a hint of irony – observed: “It is another easy away game.

“But we can take a lot of positives from the performance we put in against them at home.

“They should be pushing near the top of the league, but with that expectation levels rise. That brings added pressure.

“We go there with our expectation level probably not where it would have been a season or two ago.

“But our fans will be buoyed and we will go down there and give as good as we can.”

While Wednesday encountered an out-of-sorts Boro side wrestling with form issues and poor home form in front of a tetchy holiday crowd, West Brom have no such worries. Quite the opposite in fact.

Free-scoring Albion’s haul of 52 goals is the best after 24 Championship league games since Bournemouth’s tally of 54 at the same juncture of the 2014-15 season, with Darren Moore’s side also unbeaten in eight matches.

An Owls victory would eclipse events at the Riverside especially given the fact that today’s hosts have fired a head-turning 31 goals in 12 home league matches.

A switch to a 4-3-3 formation – first employed in an outstanding 4-1 televised victory over Leeds in November – is reaping a harvest with Albion’s run of six wins in their last eight games also including victories over Sheffield United and Rotherham United.

But slip-ups are not an option given the form of the top two.

Bullen said: “I know they have adjusted their formation and tweaked things around. They have gone on a great run of form.

“On paper theirs and (Aston) Villa’s front three are probably the strongest in the league. They will cause anybody problems because of the goals they score.

“We will go with a game plan and hope to nullify that, but we know it is going to be very tough.”

For those Wednesdayites who head to The Hawthorns seeking a second festive fill after those uplifting events on Teesside on Boxing Day, there are memories of another rich occasion in a largely bereft 2018-19 season to provide them with a spot of hope.

They were played out at Villa Park – just down the road from West Brom – on September 22 when the Owls produced another memorable away-day performance to triumph 2-1.

Bruce’s trusted coaching staff members Steve Agnew and Stephen Clemence, on the receiving end that day in the home dug-out, are to likely to be in attendance today to run the rule further over Wednesday – with players likely to be mindful of that.

“West Brom have gone back on a run of form after a blip. What I will say is that they have a hell of a squad,” added Bullen.

“The league does not lie. We deserve to be mid-table after the results we have had. But I do not think you can make any predictions in this league.”