QPR v Sheffield Wednesday - Owls hope their actions can do the talking

Sheffield Wednesday captain Tom Lees believes no player is safe from the axe after their Hillsborough horror show.

Sheffield Wednesday captain, Tom Lees. Picture: Steve Ellis

The Owls slumped to a 5-0 home defeat to Blackburn Rovers last Saturday, to cap a miserable month in the Championship.

Since beating Bristol City before Christmas, Wednesday have slid from third to 10th in the table, after four defeats in five outings.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The only win for Garry Monk’s men came at an out-of-sorts Leeds United, meaning tonight’s FA Cup fourth round trip to QPR – where the visitors will be backed by 3,000 supporters – takes on added importance for the Owls.

OPEN HOUSE: Sheffield Wednesday manager Garry Monk Picture: Dave Howarth/PA

Lees – who returned from illness as a half-time substitute against Blackburn – believes “all spots are up for grabs” despite wins on their last two away trips at Elland Road and Premier League side Brighton in the FA Cup.

He said: ”With how bad last weekend’s game was, I think this game becomes really important now.

“It’s a case of all spots are up for grabs and people will be trying to make sure for the next league game that they are starting.

“Blackburn was a bad result but the two before – Leeds are struggling a little bit and the other one was an FA Cup game.

“You have to take everything across a longer distance and look at the fact that we weren’t great in the three games before that. There’s been a little bit of a slump for a while now.

“We have to get to a level where we’ve got eight or nine players playing at it every week. I would say that, definitely since the Bristol game, we haven’t been at those levels.

“Since the Bristol game we have dipped a bit and that’s something we’ve got to change. It’s mad that we’re still close to the play-offs after the month we’ve had.”

After three successive Hillsborough defeats – to Cardiff City, Hull City and Blackburn – at least the fixture list offers the Owls some respite.

Tonight’s trip to Loftus Road is the first of four, out of their next five games, away from home. After Tuesday’s trip to Wigan Athletic, the Owls also travel to Barnsley and Luton Town.

It also offers the chance for Wednesday to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup, a feat they have achieved three times over the last decade.

“Since Christmas we haven’t been in a great run of form,” admitted former Leeds defender Lees. “The Cardiff game and obviously the Blackburn game we were off it.

“The Hull game, neither side looked on it, we were both a bit leggy coming off the back of a two-day turnaround. It could have gone either way and they took the only chance of the game.

“But for a while now at home we haven’t been great, but it’s easy sitting here talking about it.

“Really I’d rather just focus on going out on the pitch and letting that do the talking.”

It was a similar message from Monk – “words are words, actions are what you are judged on” – who, following the Blackburn debacle, held a meeting with his players to ‘clear the air’.

Monk said: “A big part of having a good environment is being honest and open with one another.

“We spoke at the very start of the week, I try to encourage an honest and open conversation with the players, an understanding of what’s acceptable and what’s not.

“To give my side of it as manager, how I see it, but also for them to see how each other felt.

“What we try and do is come out of that meeting with a clear way of moving forward, after a result like that, which isn’t acceptable.

“We had a good discussion. The players spoke, I spoke, and then the collective is to come out of that room and make sure you are clear in how you are going to move forward in that week.

“But words are words, actions are what you are judged on. It’s important to have words, but what is more important is action. That’s what you will always be judged on. That shows whether you meant those words or not.

“I won’t go into exactly what the meeting was about, but it was an honest and open meeting.

“Yes, we have been critical of each other, and we will take criticism – quite rightly so, after the game – but we will definitely stick together, that’s what successful teams do.

“You expect them to come out fighting, not just this game, but the remainder of this season.”

Midfielder Massimo Luongo is clear to face his former club, after his red card against Blackburn was rescinded.

Forward Fernando Forestieri and right-back Liam Palmer are both back in training, after injury lay-offs, but tonight probably comes too soon for the pair.

Last six games: QPR LLWWLW Sheffield Wednesday LLLWWL

Referee: K Stroud (England).

Last time: QPR 3 Sheffield Wednesday 0, October 23 2018, Championship.