This international break has seemed to go on forever. Our defeat to champions elect Cardiff whist frustrating, wasn’t unexpected. The problem came with every other result going against us. Only Bristol City lost, but we would have preferred a draw in their match against Wolves. Evidently people would feel low in the circumstances, but the air of negativity that has clouded our season re-surfaced. We’ve had to wait to put things right.
I think one thing I should make clear is that we have always been in a relegation scrap. A four point cushion is only secure when you have one game left. When you have a woeful run of results, which we have had twice this season, you are always going to struggle.
Our form has been good since December. Barnsley and Peterborough have been in and around us all season, and have picked up points. Ipswich’s bad start has kept them in trouble, whilst Wolves have dropped into the mire as the season has progressed. Bristol City look like they are losing the battle, but I wouldn’t write them off just yet.
A betting man would back three from the bottom six, yet I would say any team up to 11th place still need to get some points to ensure survival. It could well be a record high points total for the teams that go down. Blackburn have continued to be in turmoil and are hovering dangerously close to the trap door. Along with Wolves they could face successive relegations. There are plenty of teams in the mix and our destiny is firmly in our hands.
So we look at our run in. We don’t face any of the teams in the battle for promotion. Conversely, that means we have a few games against teams in and around us. First up, it’s Barnsley. No love lost between us, that’s for sure. We were fortunate to come away from Oakwell with a win which kick-started our season just before Christmas. Our biggest attendance of the season will be at Hillsborough, and we are all looking forward to the game. I just hope the negativity doesn’t creep in again, even if we go behind. We need to support the team and make sure Hillsborough is a help rather than a hindrance in our battle to beat the drop. A win in this game would be a huge result and give us some breathing space as the games come thick and fast. Defeat doesn’t bear thinking about.
I actually think that our away form could be the key. The players seem to be less inhibited on the road. First up Bristol City, who will need to beat us. That will be a tense affair. We play Millwall a few days before their FA Cup Semi Final at Wembley, which could work in our favour. Leeds is a local derby and anything can happen, but I think we are more than capable of picking up points there. The awful state of the pitch at Bloomfield Road might suit our game more than Blackpool. Our last away game is at London Road. That could be a deciding game if the Championship status of Peterborough or ourselves is still in question.
We’ve got the players to get us out of this. Stuart Holden is an exciting addition. I hope he is match fit. His injury is one of the reasons Bolton find themselves at this level. I wonder if he is able to overcome the injury problems and reproduce the form he showed in the Premier League. He certainly gives us a different option in the middle of the park. Steve Howard was a surprise to most of us. We have been linked with him countless times in the past, and we have finally signed him in the twilight of his career. His experience might be useful in and around the squad. Who knows, he might pop up with the goal that secures our Championship status. We all know it’s a funny old game. I don’t know much about Seyi Olofinjana, so I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve seen him play.
The loss of Michail Antonio is a blow. He’s been inconsistent this season, but always offers a threat, and has provided some key goals for us this term. Jermaine Johnson hasn’t provided any magical moments this season. Despite his flaws, he could be a key player in the run in if he can produce some performances like he has done in the past. I’ve also noticed a change in Gary Madine recently. It seems he is more confident when he comes on the pitch. He’s struggled for goals with the step up from League one, but the odd one in the run in wouldn’t go amiss.
I am, like all Wednesday fans, desperate for survival. Nobody wants another season in league one, but it is a possibility. We can’t assume we are going to beat the teams around us. We’ve all got to stick together and as fans support the team. Blackburn and Ipswich still have to come to Hillsborough; and they could be as crucial as the Barnsley game. We finish at home to Middlesbrough who’s thoughts might well be on the beach by that point. Either way, let’s hope we have our thoughts on the summer break by that game…for the right reasons!
Up the Owls!
Written by Carl Mullooly, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield Wednesday blogger
Carl tweets at @MulOwl