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Mid-season report: Sheffield Wednesday

Sports Mole recaps a stubborn, if unspectacular first half of the 2014-15 Championship season for Stuart Gray's Sheffield Wednesday.

Sheffield Wednesday diced with relegation far too closely for the fans' liking last season and Stuart Gray was looking to steer the Owls clear of such danger in his first full season in charge in 2014-15.

Losing explosive winger Michail Antonio to Nottingham Forest over the summer was a blow for the club, but they made astute signings with the captures of Keiren Westwood and Tom Lees as well as taking a punt on Scottish youngster Stevie May.

Here, Sports Mole picks apart the Hillsborough club's 2014 half of the season.

August

A trip to the South Coast to face Brighton & Hove Albion was a tough start to the season, but Wednesday rose to the challenge and travelled back North with all three points thanks to Giles Coke's first-half strike. A first-round League Cup tie was next, and Wednesday booked their place in round two with victory over Notts County.

They followed that up with another clean sheet in a 0-0 draw with title favourites Derby County before they were denied a second win of the season by Millwall in the 95th minute.

Atdhe Nuhiu of Sheffield Wednesday runs away to celebrate after scoring his teams first goal from the penalty spot during the Capital One Cup Second Round match on August 26, 2014© Getty Images

A blistering first-half display from the Owls at Middlesbrough, in which May scored his first Wednesday goal, saw them move into the playoffs and things looked even rosier three days later when they beat Premier League side Burnley in the next round of the Cup.

The opening month ended with a visit from league leaders Nottingham Forest, who hung on for a slim win and ended the Owls' six-game unbeaten start in all competitions.

September

A drab draw at Bolton Wanderers began the ninth month before Wednesday won back-to-back league games for the first time in 2014-15 and made it three clean sheets in a row with a 2-0 win at Birmingham City and 1-0 victory over Reading.

That took them back into the playoff places and they would have been in confident mood ahead of their trip to Manchester City in the third round of the League Cup.

Edin Dzeko of Manchester City scores his sides fifth goal during the Capital One Cup Third Round match between Manchester City and Sheffield Wednesday at the Etihad Stadium on September 24, 2014© Getty Images

The Owls held firm in the first half, but then spectacularly capitulated in the second, conceding seven in 45 minutes at the Etihad.

So, their run in the Cup was ended and it also kickstarted a barren run of results in the league, with a 2-1 defeat at Cardiff City followed by a 1-1 draw at home to Ipswich Town to end September.

October

A lunchtime Yorkshire derby was first up in October and Wednesday appeared on course for the points after Chris Maguire's second goal of the season, but Leeds United hit back late on for a draw.

Chris Maguire of Sheffield Wednesday celebrates after scoring their first goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday at Elland Road on October 4, 2014© Getty Images

It would be one of just three points collected in the month as the club's winless run stretched to six games. They also failed to score in the last three games of the month, going down 3-0 at home to Watford before a pair of goalless draws against Brentford and Norwich City.

They were hardly easy fixtures, but Wednesday's drought in front of goal saw them on the verge of dropping into the bottom half. Gray brought in Gary Taylor-Fletcher on loan to try to help the flailing attack.

November

Another loanee, Royston Drenthe, scored Wednesday's equaliser at Charlton Athletic as they ended their goalless streak, but they were soon back in a slump with a similar three-game run to the one in November.

A 2-0 home defeat to high-flying Bournemouth was followed by another pair of goalless draws against fellow Yorkshire sides Rotherham United and Huddersfield Town, making it 10 games without a win and just four goals in that run.

Stuart Gray, the Sheffield Wednesday manager, looks on during the Sky Bet Championship match between Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough Stadium on August 30, 2014© Getty Images

They got back to winning ways at the end of November and May was back amongst the goals as well as he ended a two-month drought with both in the victory over Wigan Athletic.

December

A last-gasp Claude Dielna goal saw Wednesday defeat Blackburn Rovers and climb briefly back into the top half before two straight defeats without scoring against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Fulham.

However, a topsy-turvy month ended with a pair of wins over relegation-threatened Blackpool and Wigan Athletic, leaving Wednesday in an impressive 10th at the start of 2015.

The main reason for their lofty position just six points adrift of the playoffs is their defence, which has conceded the second fewest, and the performances especially of goalkeeper Westwood and centre-back Lees.

However, no-one has scored fewer goals than the Owls so far this term and that will be an area that Gray must address in January if they are going to make a surprise playoff push.

Star man: Tom Lees

Must do better: Stevie May

Where to strengthen in January: Attack

Position at start of 2015: 10th

Mid-season grade: B

To see Wednesday's remaining fixtures in 2014-15, click here.

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Stuart Gray, the Sheffield Wednesday manager, looks on during the Sky Bet Championship match between Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough Stadium on August 30, 2014
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