Can the Owls get off to a flying start at Hillsborough?

Last updated : 06 August 2011 By C. Morris

Sheffield Wednesday kick off their 2011/12 League One campaign against Rochdale at Hillsborough on Saturday and once again there will be high hopes amongst the home faithful with the Owls tipped to challenge for promotion. Although last season didn’t go to plan the Owls did get off to a great start, winning 3 of their first 4 league games and they will be hoping for a similar start this time around.

Wednesday only have 2 experienced strikers in their ranks going into kick-off in the shape of Gary Madine and Clinton Morrison and a well-documented recent injury picked up by winger Jermaine Johnson has left them extremely light in attacking areas. Chris Sedgwick has impressed in wide midfield during pre-season and is likely to start with youngster Liam Palmer tipped to start on the opposite side, though this would mean him playing out of position as central midfield is his preferred role.

For all their attack problems the Owls do at least look like a much more solid unit going into this season. After playing well for the club on loan at the back end of last season the central defensive pair of Danny Batth and Rob Jones have returned to the club with the latter taking in the captaincy and the duo are likely to resume their partnership at the heart of the defence. Left-back Julian Bennett has made a positive impression since joining the club and is likely to make his competitive debut.

The new midfield pair of David Prutton and Jose Semedo add a wealth of experience to the Owls side and will give the team a solid base from which to play around, providing cover, keeping the ball and taking the pressure off of the defence.

Rochdale come to Hillsborough under the new management of Steve Eyre with Keith Hill having departed to take over at Barnsley during the summer.  They are expected to start with young Blackburn keeper Jake Kean in goal after the stopper recently joined them on a year-long loan.  Former Wednesday goalkeeper David Lucas also signed for Dale earlier in the week on a player/coach basis and is likely to be on the bench.

One of Wednesday’s summer transfer targets, Chris O’ Grady has been struggling of late with heel injury and it remains to be seen whether this will keep him out of the clash against his suitors.

Last season was the first time that the two clubs had faced each other in league games in their history. The spoils were shared with Wednesday winning 2-0 at Hillsborough in November before losing out 2-1 in the return at Rochdale in February.

Despite failing to add to their attacking options the Owls go into the game as big favourites and anything less than a victory will be regarded as a setback as the season gets underway.