Centre-back is quickly becoming a problem area for Darren Moore at Sheffield Wednesday, with the Owls seriously lacking defensive options ahead of this weekend’s game against Burton Albion.
Ben Heneghan and Reece James were both sidelined for Wednesday night’s meeting with Bristol Rovers after picking up injury problems in recent weeks, which already forced Moore to deploy full-back Jaden Brown in the heart of his defence in order to stick with his preferred 3-4-1-2 formation on Wednesday.
The Owls would lose ground in the race for automatic promotion against Joey Barton’s side, with a 1-1 draw meaning that they sit five points behind second-placed Ipswich Town in the third tier.
Unfortunately for Moore, things will look even worse for Saturday’s fixture against an ever-improving Brewers side, as the former West Bromwich Albion boss will now also be without the influential Michael Ihiekwe, as he picked up his fifth booking of the campaign on Wednesday night – meaning he will have to serve a one-match suspension this weekend.
Sheffield Star correspondent Joe Crann summed up the situation on Twitter, writing:
“Ihiekwe’s booking tonight means that he [will miss] the weekend’s game due to suspension. The centre-back situation gets worse.”
Since joining from Rotherham United in the summer, Ihiekwe has been a mainstay in Moore’s side, starting all 16 of the Owls’ fixtures in League One, so it is undoubtedly a big blow that he won’t be available against Burton on Saturday.
While the 29-year-old centre-back looked a bit suspect on Wednesday evening with some errors, he has been a big part of the Owls’ impressive defence so far this season, with only Derby County and Bolton Wanderers having conceded fewer in the third tier of English football this term.
Ihiekwe’s 6.88 average rating from WhoScored ranks him as the seventh-best performer in Moore’s side, which emphasises how important he is at Hillsborough, but Sheffield Wednesday will now have to find a way to cope without him, as well as Heneghan and James on Saturday, which could prove to be a big blow to their automatic promotion hopes this season.