It's do or die for Sheffield Wednesday as the Owls hope to keep their survival prospects alive when welcoming Nottingham Forest on Saturday. Mark O'Haire oversees the encounter...
"The Tricky Trees have managed W9-D8-L3 across all venues when taking on sides in 13th and below"
Sheffield Wednesday v Nottingham Forest
Saturday May 1, 12:30
Must-win territory for Wednesday
Sheffield Wednesday moved a step closer to relegation from the Championship after falling to a disappointing 3-1 defeat at Middlesbrough. Boro went in front when Owls centre-half Julian Borner coughed up possession, and whilst Josh Windass levelled with a clinical penalty, the hosts scored twice in the second-half to secure top honours.
A 16th away defeat of the season, combined with Derby's loss to Birmingham, leaves Wednesday four points from safety with two games remaining. The Owls must now take at least a point against Nottingham Forest, and hope for another slip-up from Derby, to keep their Championship survival hopes alive. The duo meet on the final day of the campaign.
Centre-half Tom Lees was stretched off at The Riverside and won't be involved here but there's hope manager Darren Moore could be back on the sidelines. The Wednesday boss is out of hospital and on the road to recovery after dealing with pneumonia and blood clots on his lungs in the aftermath of his bout of COVID-19. Assistant Jamie Smith has been in charge.
Forest share the spoils
Lewis Grabban was on target for the second game running as Nottingham Forest shared the points with Stoke in a 1-1 stalemate last Saturday. The Potters were ahead before the half-hour mark at the City Ground but Grabban snatched the equaliser early in the second period, with the point lifting Forest to 17th as results elsewhere confirmed safety.
The Tricky Trees created little in the first period, although Grabban might have done better when he pounced on Harry Souttar's error but dragged the chance wide. Substitute Anthony Knockaert created the Reds' leveller five minutes into the second half, delivering a cross that the visitors' defence failed to clear and Grabban was on hand to slot home.
Neither side looked likely to snatch a winner, although Forest boss Chris Hughton remained upbeat, saying: "There were a lot of good things in the performance, we were the better side and we played against a team that are very good at what they do. It was a game we deserved to win but if you aren't putting the ball in the back of the net it becomes harder."
Sheffield Wednesday have enjoyed a W9-D1-L2 supremacy in head-to-head battles with Nottingham Forest since 2014 with the Owls also boasting a W4-D1-L0 return at Hillsborough during the same sample. However, the Reds were 2-0 victors in December's reverse and have claimed a W2-D1-L2 share of the spoils in most recent match-ups.
Sheffield Wednesday's 2.186/5 survival prospects have relied upon the club's home form this season. The Owls have avoided defeat in four of their last five at Hillsborough (W2-D2-L1) and the hosts have posted an impressive W7-D6-L3 when welcoming sides outside of the Championship's top-six this term, keeping eight clean sheets in those 16 outings.
Nottingham Forest 3.45 have little left to play for but Chris Hughton's team have proven obdurate opposition for fellow bottom-half outfits. The Tricky Trees have managed W9-D8-L3 across all venues when taking on sides in 13th and below, with the Reds' last league loss on the road to a side outside of the top-seven coming way back at the end of October.
Hillsborough has been the lowest scoring ground in the Championship this season, averaging a measly 1.77 goals per-game. A huge 16/22 (73%) of those fixtures featured Under 2.5 Goals and a repeat is pried up at just 1.608/13 on Saturday. The Owls come into this contest having plundered multiple goals in just three of their past 16 encounters.
Only eight of Nottingham Forest's 40 Championship contests under Chris Hughton have eclipsed the Over 2.5 Goals 2.206/5 barrier, with eight of the Reds' most recent 16 outings producing no more than a solitary strike. A massive 19/22 (86%) of the Tricky Trees' road trips have also featured fewer than three goals with nine paying-out on Under 1.5 Goals.
Considering the magnitude of the match, I'm not anticipating a high-scoring meeting and I'm also unconvinced Sheffield Wednesday are capable of simply shifting in top gear on Saturday. Forest have proven a tough nut to crack and keeping the guests onside in the Double Chance market alongside Under 3.5 Goals appeals at 1.991/1.
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