‘We must be­lieve,’ says Owls man­ager Luhukay as pres­sure builds from fans

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD HERCOCK

DE­FI­ANT Jos Luhukay in­sists he will not quit Sh­effield Wed­nes­day.

The Owls have the worst de­fence in the Cham­pi­onship – 36 goals con­ceded, after a hor­ror 4-2 loss at Black­burn Rovers on Satur­day – and sit five points off the rel­e­ga­tion zone.

The 3,500 trav­el­ling Owls sup­port­ers chanted ‘We want Jos out’ through­out the sec­ond half at Ewood Park, but Dutch man­ager Luhukay – with just one to his name in the last eight games – in­sists he will not walk away.

“I heard it (the chant­ing), yes, but what can I do with that? I’m also frus­trated and ir­ri­tated, it’s not what we like,” he said.

“The ex­pec­ta­tions in this club are high. We are now not liv­ing in the past, and fans may be live in the past from the suc­cess, but last sea­son it was also a di­rec­tion where it was not good enough.

“That’s why I came in Jan­uary and now we sit in the same sit­u­a­tion so we must fight against that, and we must be­lieve that we can take us to a bet­ter pe­riod.

“Now we are in the worst pe­riod, I know that. But in my char­ac­ter, it is not that I will give up, but only solve why we didn’t get a good re­sult, or why the fans aren’t happy with this.

“But I’m also not happy with this, that’s why I can un­der­stand it. It’s not nice, but in foot­ball there will be pe­ri­ods where you have bet­ter re­sults and suc­cess. We must have pa­tience for that.”

SH­EFFIELD WED­NES­DAY owner De­jphon Chan­siri was not at Ewood Park to watch the Owls’ lat­est hor­ror show.

That is prob­a­bly a re­lief for Jos Luhukay, who was bom­barded with chants from Wed­nes­day’s 3,500 trav­el­ling fans call­ing for the man­ager’s head after a 4-2 de­feat.

For 11 months ago, Chan­siri showed lit­tle fes­tive spirit in part­ing with former coach Car­los Car­val­hal on Christ­mas Eve.

The pres­sure is now firmly on Luhukay to halt a slump which has seen Wed­nes­day plum­met down the Cham­pi­onship ta­ble.

Shoddy de­fend­ing al­lowed Black­burn duo Danny Gra­ham and Bradley Dack to share four goals be­tween them, and un­der­mine Wed­nes­day’s at­tempts to get any­thing out of Ewood Park, de­spite goals from Lu­cas Joao and Barry Bannan. The wor­ry­ing part for Wed­nes­day is they ap­pear to have shown lit­tle im­prove­ment in the 11 months since Car­val­hal de­parted.

When the Por­tuguese chief was sacked on Christ­mas Eve last year the Owls were 15th in the Cham­pi­onship, with 27 points from 23 games.

Head­ing into De­cem­ber once again this term, un­der Luhukay, the Owls are 16th in the ta­ble, four points worse off, after 20 games.

In the Dutch­man’s de­fence, he has been hin­dered by a trans­fer em­bargo for much of his ten­ure – hav­ing joined in Jan­uary – and has been forced to blood a num­ber of Academy young­sters.

But nei­ther re­sults nor per­for­mances have im­proved this sea­son, four of their six wins – Read­ing, Bolton, Ip­swich and Mill­wall – com­ing against the teams who oc­cupy the bot­tom quar­tet in the Cham­pi­onship.

It means the Owls head into Satur­day’s South York­shire derby with neigh­bours Rother­ham United – only three points be­low them in the ta­ble – know­ing they must im­prove on an­other poor dis­play at Ewood Park.

Luhukay said: “I un­der­stand the fans’ frus­tra­tion. I’m also an­gry, frus­trated and ir­ri­tated.

“We lose to­gether. I have the re­spon­si­bil­ity and I walk not away from that.

“I be­lieve in this team and I hope we soon have a bet­ter pe­riod.

“When I don’t have the con­fi­dence (that I can turn it around), I will go. But I think I reach the play­ers and, when I have feel­ing that is not true, then I am not the right per­son for this po­si­tion.

“I still be­lieve that the team stays be­hind me and that to­gether the play­ers fol­low our way. It gives me the mo­ti­va­tion and in­spi­ra­tion ev­ery day.

“We now have one week to get to­gether and work as a team be­fore a big derby game against Rother­ham next Satur­day.”

Wed­nes­day were tooth­less in the open­ing 45 min­utes, fail­ing to get a shot on tar­get.

They could have been 3-0 down in­side the open­ing 10 min­utes.

Dack got the ball in the back of the net but the ref­eree had blown for a foul in the build-up be­fore Craig Con­way’s cross picked out the un­marked Har­ri­son Reed at the far post, but he struck the post.

So when goal­keeper Cameron Daw­son could only parry a shot from the im­pres­sive Dack, Gra­ham was lurk­ing to fire home the re­bound.

Start­ing with a 4-2-3-1 for­ma­tion – with young­ster Jor­dan Thorni­ley strug­gling after be­ing switched from his reg­u­lar cen­tre­back spot to left-back – the Owls were con­tin­u­ally ex­posed at the back.

Nei­ther wide men Marco Ma­tias or Lu­cas Joao – both at­tack­minded play­ers – pro­vided ad­e­quate cover down the flanks, and even from the early ex­changes, you feared how many goals the Owls would con­cede.

Dack blazed over the cross­bar after ar­riv­ing late in the area, and the only con­so­la­tion Wed­nes­day could take at the half-time whis­tle was that they only trailed 1-0 against a Black­burn side who had won just once in six be­fore Satur­day.

Some­thing had to change, and Luhukay re­placed Steven Fletcher and Ma­tias with Fer­nando Forestieri and At­dhe Nuhiu at the start of the sec­ond half.

Daw­son kept out Der­rick Wil­liams’s close-range header, be­fore Adam Reach fi­nally man­aged Wed­nes­day’s first at­tempt on tar­get in the 50th minute, goal­keeper David Raya palm­ing wide at his near post.

Rovers net­ted a de­served sec­ond goal mo­ments later, Black­burn slic­ing through the rear­guard be­fore Gra­ham turned provider to slide in Dack, who slammed the ball beyond Daw­son.

That was the break­ing point for Wed­nes­day fans, with chants of ‘We want Jos out’ from the Dar­wen End the back­drop to a sec­ond half in which the vis­i­tors showed will­ing, but their ef­forts be­ing un­done by their short­com­ings in de­fence.

Twice the Owls cut the deficit to a soli­tary goal, but each time they were left ex­posed in mid­field and Black­burn pun­ished them.

Lu­cas Joao drilled home a 25-yard ef­fort to make it 2-1, only for Gra­ham to prod home the re­bound after Dack’s ef­fort smacked the post.

Mid­fielder Barry Bannan sin­gle-hand­edly pulled the Owls back to 3-2, as he bull­dozed through Rovers’ de­fence. His shot hit the post, rolled across goal and be­tween them Raya and Bannan bun­dled the ball into the net.

Of­fi­cials awarded an own goal to the Black­burn goal­keeper, but Scot­tish in­ter­na­tional Bannan told The York­shire Post after the game he got the fi­nal touch and was claim­ing the goal.

But once again Black­burn went up the field to score. This time on-loan Michael Hec­tor al­lowed Dack to drift beyond him, and the mid­fielder crossed for the un­marked Gra­ham to com­plete his hat-trick of tap-ins.

To cap a mis­er­able af­ter­noon for Wed­nes­day, Forestieri – whose sea­son has been plagued by in­jury – limped off in stop­page-time, and faces a scan later this week on his ham­string which could see him side­lined once again.


IN­JURY SET­BACK: Sh­effield Wed­nes­day at­tacker Fer­nando Forestieri faces a scan on his ham­string this week after limp­ing off near the end of the Owls’ crush­ing 4-2 de­feat at Black­burn Rovers.

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