Preview: Sheffield Wednesday vs Exeter City

City’s tough run-in continued on Tuesday night with another valiant performance but a fourth straight defeat against Derby, and Gary Caldwell will need to pick up his injury-hit side for successive away trips to two of the top three on Saturday. Caldwell was forced to select almost a scratch side on Tuesday with both main strikers out injured meaning Sonny Cox and James Scott were paired, but with both thought to be carrying only minor niggles Caldwell will hope they are fit to return – also missing were Demetri Mitchell and again Kevin McDonald, while Caldwell surprised many with Harry Kite and Josh Key essentially swapping positions.

With the other three teams at the top all having a game in hand, Saturday’s game is very much a “must win” for Sheffield Wednesday. Having looked almost invincible in their quest for a return to the second tier following relegation in 2021, Darren Moore’s side have been in patchy form recently with just two wins from their last nine and suffering surprise defeats to whipping boys Forest Green and, last Saturday, at Burton. This is a far cry from the 23 match unbeaten run they had previously been on before a 4-2 defeat at Barnsley in mid-March. When it comes to players to watch, one player in particular stands out – like David McGoldrick on Tuesday, Barry Bannan is a player who, even in the twilight of his career, is playing at a level far beneath his abilities, but the 33 year old has shown great loyalty to the Owls since signing in 2015, with over 350 appearances in all competitions. City will also be likely to find a familiar face standing in the way of their attackers – Cameron Dawson has sought to establish himself as first choice ahead of veteran David Stockdale, coming into the side after Stockdale’s error at the Park back in December. He is guaranteed a good reception from the visiting support (unless he starts acting like Derby’s keeper on Tuesday!), while another player who was once on the books (briefly) at City may be an outside shot for some game time, Jaden Brown – whose brief loan spell at the club saw him leave without setting foot on the pitch – made a substitute appearance at Burton last week so may be on the bench again.

The reverse fixture, a couple of weeks before Christmas, was one of some heartbreak for City. Leading 1-0 through Jake Caprice (assisted somewhat by a poor piece of goalkeeping from Stockdale), City were seconds away from a deserved win before Callum Paterson equalised deep into injury time. City’s last visit to Hillsborough was back in 2011/12, when the gulf in quality between promoted Wednesday and relegated City was apparent in a 3-0 win for the home side – O’Connor and a Madine double (one from the spot) sealed the points. City supporters would prefer to look to the previous season, however, when Troy Archibald-Henville channelled his inner Ricky Villa to score his first senior goal having run the length of the field in the last minute and clinch a 2-1 win. Given the relative size of the sides there haven’t been many occurrences of this fixture in the league, but City hold a surprising 6-3 lead in this match up, two matches finishing level.

The match officials for this game will be:-

Referee: Declan Bourne
Assistant Referees: Daniel Woodward and Gary Hilton
Fourth Official : Andy Haines

Declan Bourne last refereed Exeter in February in the 2-1 home defeat to Charlton Athletic.

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