Matthew Crichton: Sheffield Wednesday have not lost a match in League One since 2nd October - what are the factors behind your team being so hard to beat?
James Mappin: On paper we’ve got a great squad which, in truth, I don’t think are performing to the best of their ability just yet. In most of the games we perhaps should have won, but for a lapse in concentration or a defensive mistake.
We’ve got one of the best defensive records in the league at the moment and even though we do concede, it’s only the odd goal. Moore, being a defender has put a lot of emphasis on that and even though it’s been tough with injuries and playing a left-winger in Johnson at left centre half, we’ve not done too bad.
However, I would have taken a few defeats if that meant that we would have won a few more games. Seven of the 12 have been draws.
MC: Despite that run, Wednesday still only sit 8th in the table, but are just two points from the playoffs. Are fans confident that your promotion hunt is well and truly still on?
JM: Whilst ever it’s mathematically possible then yes.
To be in the hunt having not played that well all season (only MK Dons and Wycombe have been 90 minute performances) is good as I still think the squad has a lot to give.
Before the season I thought it was going to be a struggle but optimism grew with the 14 additions in the summer.
We had a great start to the season but dipped somewhat and only now have we started to grow in confidence – but that’s been scuppered by the two games that have been postponed.
MC: When we last spoke you mentioned that Darren Moore had faced criticism for your inconsistency. Have things now calmed down around this given your unbeaten run?
JM: Yeah. Some of the decisions that he made were a little suspect.
The decision to not play Corbeanu seemingly paid off when he played in the reverse fixture against yourself and was a handful all night, bagging himself a tidy goal to boot.
Playing Johnson at left centre back, which I eluded, to was a strange decision, but Johnson has played some of his best football for us in that position.
I think we just needed to have a little patience and trust the process.
MC: Lee Gregory has scored eight goals and assisted four more for Darren Moore’s side so far this season. Is he the main threat for Wednesday tonight?
JM: Absolutely. He’s been a great signing.
If we can keep him fit then he could be a key component in our promotion push this season.
We’ve not had a 20 goal a season striker since Neil Mellor in 2010/11, the last time we were in this division. Lee Gregory could be the next one if he continues his form
MC: Ahead of the January transfer window, which positions do your club need to strengthen and which players would you like to see depart?
JM: In terms of departures then I would say Lewis Wing and Lewis Gibson can both go back to their parent clubs. The former hasn’t produced and the latter has been injured, only playing 45 minutes this season so far.
In terms of additions, we desperately need a left-back and a natural one at that. We’ve been playing three at the back recently so a left-back that’s comfortable playing left centre back would be a bonus.
We also need cover at centre back as injuries have hit us hard.
I’d also like us to sign another striker. Berahino just isn’t cutting it and although Kamberi has got in on the goals I don’t think that he’s the one to partner Gregory full-time – plus if LG gets an injury we could be scuppered.
MC: Wednesday have not played a competitive fixture since 11th December due to COVID-19 related postponements. How do you think this will affect your side’s performance?
JM: Massively. We don’t know who or how many players have been affected and also how badly either. We don’t know who’s been training or again how many so it’s been a lottery.
Match fitness is key, so to have not played a game in such a long time will definitely affect us. That being said as every day goes by we get closer to having a full-strength side in terms of those that are out with muscular injuries.
Both Dennis Adeniran and Sam Hutchinson should be getting close to being fully-fit and centre back Dominic Iorfa shouldn’t be too far off.
MC: Which 11 players do you think Moore will select against Sunderland and what style of play can Lee Johnson’s side expect to encounter?
JM: For the reasons mentioned above this is going to be a tricky one. If we go with that none of the players are affected by COVID and all are available then I would say that we would set up very similar to how we did in our last game against Crewe.
I’d expect to see Dunkley return at the centre of defence with Johnson and Palmer either side of him. Peacock-Farrell will keep his place in goal. Hunt and Corbeanu would be the two wing backs with Bannan in the heart of midfield with Dele-Bashiru and Adeniran (if fit) alongside.
Gregory would start up top with either Kamberi or Paterson although I feel DM will go with the latter given his versatility, aerial presence and general sh*thousery tactics that he can employ.
MC: Sunderland were hammered 3-0 by Sheffield Wednesday back in November. What is your prediction for the final score this time around?
JM: It’s going to be a different game this time around. You’re at home, on a decent run, and haven’t lost since the 3-0 defeat that you just mentioned.
It all hinges on what sort of a side we can field and how badly our players have been affected. I think we would take confidence in the fact that we’ve already beaten you this season and like yourselves, are on a decent unbeaten run, the longest in the football league currently.
All that being said, if we come away from the Stadium of Light with a point I think that would be a decent result. It would just be another draw in a very long list of draws that we already have.