OWLS’ DEFENCE DELIGHTS GRAY
Wingers see off Terriers
SHEFFIELD Wednesday manager Stuart Gray hailed his side’s defensive qualities after they shut out Huddersfield to claim victory in this Yorkshire derby.
Goals from francophone wingers Jeremy Helan and Jacques Maghoma at the John Smith’s Stadium extended Wednesday’s unbeaten run away from home to nine matches.
But Gray afterwards praised his defenders for their contributions to the run as well as his team’s prowess on the counterattack.
“We’ve got people who are willing to put their bodies on the line if shots come in,” said Gray.
“I’ve got a saying: ‘a good defender has a good habit of getting hit with the ball’ and we seem to have a few defenders who get hit with the ball.
“We’ve got the legs in the team that can counter-attack, we can be up the other end of the pitch within six or seven seconds.”
Despite the home side enjoying the majorty of possession in the first half, it was the Owls who led at half-time courtesy of a Helan’s 40th-minute strike.
The French winger charged down a Peter Clarke clearance inside the penalty area and drove a low right-footed shot into the bottom corner.
But despite heading into halftime a goal to the good, Gray conceded that he was far from impressed with his side the first half as their hosts bossed and dictated the play.
“I was very disappointed in the first half,” Gray added. “We couldn’t get to grips with their shape.
“When you play against a diamond you need to close it down collectively, we were doing it individually and we were getting picked off.
“We jigged it around and then we sorted it out at half-time and then I thought we dominated the game second half.
“The pleasing thing was the discipline in the side – we kept our shape, we didn’t go chasing the ball and this made their options difficult as they had to thread balls through.”
Huddersfield’s best chance came in the 65th minute when Danny Ward forced Chris Kirkland into a save with his feet after receiving a cross-field pass from Adam Clayton.
However, the Owls doubled their advantage in the 72nd minute when Sam Hutchinson fed Maghoma inside the box and the Democratic Republic of Congo international jinked away from Clarke and shot low past Alex Smithies.
Town nearly grabbed a consolation goal in the 87th minute but Johnathan Hogg dragged his halfvolley wide from a Ward knock-down.
Huddersfield were booed at the final whistle by some of their fans and boss Mark Robins was quick to acknowledge that despite their possession, his side had an off-day.
“The possession side of it is vanity really if you don’t go anywhere with it,” said Robins.
“It’s fine, you play in front of them, they press you (and) you then start to doubt yourself.
“The crowd can see you doubting yourself and they get on your back. That’s what happened and we’ve just got to get back to work properly.
“We created chances and we’ve lit the blue touch paper quite a lot this season in most games.
“You can count on one hand the number of games where we’ve not been great and I’d count this as one of those.
“I certainly won’t change the way that we are going, I think what we need to do is work harder.
“The transition from defensive third to mid-third was OK. But I think the transition from mid-third to attacking third was non-existent at times.
“We are either a passing team or we are not and we need the supporters to stay with us on it.”
MAKING A POINT: Sheffield Wednesday’s Jacques Maghoma celebrates his goal
OPENER: Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Jeremy Helan puts his side 1-0 up