Owls aiming to close the gap on top two

Sheffield Wednesday suffered their first home defeat of the season last weekend, going down to table topping Charlton and the Owls lost ground on the automatic promotion places as Sheffield United won at Bury.

Saturday however gives Wednesday the chance to close that gap if they can beat Hartlepool at Hillsborough as the top two in League One face each other at the Valley.

Gary Megson’s side go into their game this weekend with no fresh injury or suspension concerns but they will have to make one significant change as influential winger Ben Marshall has returned to parent club Stoke City with his immediate future undecided following the end of his loan spell with the Owls.

Gary Madine could start up front again having returned from a lengthy injury lay-off against Charlton and right-sided midfielder Mike Jones will be hoping to impress having had a full week training with his new team following his move from Bury.

Right-back Lewis Buxton is close to making a long-anticipated return from injury though Jon Otsemobor has been performing well recently in his absence and so Buxton will not be risked unless he is fully ready.

Hartlepool’s main concern ahead of the game concerns the fitness of top scorer James Poole who has been struggling with a hamstring injury since the festive period.Poole will undergo a late assessment of his fitness though there is some better news for the visitors as fellow striker Adam Boyd is likely to return having missed out recently through illness.

Former Rotherham midfielder Andy Monkhouse could also return to the starting line up having only been fit enough for a place on the bench last time out.

Wednesday’s setback last weekend was their first defeat in 12 league matches at Hillsborough and they will be looking to bounce back by recording their 10th home victory of the season.

Hartlepool have lost 3 of their last 6 games but have taken 4 points from their last 2 matches, keeping back-to-back clean sheets in the process. They currently sit in mid-table and have a good away record with 6 wins and 4 draws from 13 matches on the road so far during this campaign.

The Owls recorded a narrow victory at Victoria Park in October when Reda Johnson scored the only goal of the game. Wednesday have only lost 1 of 13 matches against Hartlepool and have never been on the losing side against them at home, winning 6 of the 7 matches played to date.