Sheffield Wednesday manager Garry Monk has challenged his squad to wipe out their 12-point deficit in the next week after witnessing their 1-0 victory against his former club Birmingham at St Andrew’s.
A win for Monk’s men brought Wednesday to minus four points – the Owls were hit by an EFL punishment for breaking spending rules – as they prepare for two home games in the next seven days, against Brentford and Luton on Wednesday and Saturday respectively.
“Going into this week there is the possibility we could wipe out the 12-point deficit,” said Monk.
“This could be a big week – we could close that gap and put pressure on teams above.
“We have had to fight for our lives from the very beginning and we know that.
“If we keep building and gelling and give these guys time, hopefully we will get stronger, while keeping the urgency to get points on the board in every game.”
Monk added: “There’s no false position in our thinking – we started with minus 12 points and we have the biggest challenge in the league this season.
“We’re trying to fight to get up that league but we know it’s going to be difficult.”
Monk insists Wednesday deserved to win for the first time since the opening day of the season.
“I thought we deserved it – we dominated the game, defensively we dominated, we didn’t allow them to get into stride and they weren’t a threat while we created a number of situations,” he said.
Defeat for Birmingham ended their unbeaten league start under new head coach Aitor Karanka.
“Today we had different players and we tried to be more offensive, but the lack of intensity – especially in the first half – made it difficult to attack and difficult to defend,” admitted Karanka.
“We need to start games how we did at the beginning of the season, because when we do that, we have the intensity and we created more chances in 10 minutes than we have in three or four games in a row.”
Karanka refused to blame conceding the penalty that led to the goal being Blues’ downfall.
“I don’t want to complain because it would be easy to say it wasn’t a penalty or we could have scored one or two, but I need to know why we’re making those mistakes,” he said.
“We’re going to try to sort it out as soon as possible because this league is unforgiving.”
Blues have scored just once in a first half this season and Karanka admitted he has no explanation for their slow starts.
“We approach the games really well but it’s something I will check – is it the players, is it the warm-up or the meetings?” he said.
The goal came from the spot in the 49th minute after Adam Clayton bundled over Callum Paterson as he tried to clear.
Barry Bannan’s penalty ended a run of 365 minutes without a Wednesday player scoring in the Championship.
But it was no more than they deserved after Adam Reach’s shot was superbly tipped over, a curling free-kick from Josh Windass hit a post and Paterson glanced a header just wide.
Wednesday were also denied a penalty for Kristian Pedersen’s challenge on Josh Windass in the 34th minute.
Blues rallied late on and Scott Hogan headed wide, shots by Ivan Sanchez and Jonathan Leko were deflected off target and Hogan had an effort disallowed for offside.