Sheffield Wednesday: No old pals act for Owls loanee

Joe Bennett
Joe Bennett

Upsetting some close friends he made over a year ago is Joe Bennett’s mission tonight.

The left-back is relishing the prospect of returning to Falmer Stadium to face his former club Brighton and Hove Albion.

Chris Hughton

Chris Hughton

Rochdale-born Bennett spent last season on loan at Brighton, clocking up 42 appearances for the Seagulls as they comfortably staved off the threat of relegation.

But Bennett, who joined the Owls on a temporary basis from Premier League basement battlers Aston Villa in January, insists there will be no room for sentiment this evening.

“All of the guys were good when I was there and I have stayed in touch with quite a few of them,” he told The Star. “Beram Kayal is a really good friend of mine.

“I will be texting the Brighton guys after the game if we win! I would love to put one over them.”

Although he enjoyed his Brighton loan stint, having been frozen out at Villa, Bennett is determined to help the Owls get back on track.

He said: “I’m really looking forward to the game. I had a a great time at Brighton, playing the majority of the games.

“It was a good loan for me but I’m looking forward to helping Wednesday get three points.”

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The 25-year-old has praised the job Seagulls boss Chris Hughton has done in turning around their fortunes. Brighton went 21 league games unbeaten from the start of this season.

A seven-match winless run saw the Seagulls fall to sixth but they have moved back up to fourth, three points adrift of league leaders Burnley, after winning six of their last nine fixtures.

“Chris has done an unbelievable job,” said Bennett, who is pushing for a starting spot after being left out against Rotherham United. “I really like him as a manager. He’s a very good, down to earth guy.

“Chris has done a great job but I think we can beat them away from home if we play our game. If we are compact in defence, we can definitely beat them.”

Saturday’s disappointing South Yorkshire derby defeat to the Millers means sixth-placed Wednesday are on a four-match winless streak, opening the door ajar for the chasing pack of Cardiff City, Birmingham City and Ipswich Town to cut the gap. It ended the Owls’ six-month unbeaten Hillsborough record and only one point now separates the four clubs, but both the Blues and Tractor Boys can leapfrog Carlos Carvalhal’s side if they win their games in hand.

Wednesday’s dip in form has come at the worst possible time but Bennett, who has started just twice in Owls colours, remains confident they possess the quality to gain promotion.

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“I think we have got a really good chance,” he said. “The team are doing well at the moment and playing some good football.

“We are scoring goals and we can definitely make the play-offs. It is really tight at the top and anything can happen.

“We have got games coming thick and fast so we can’t lose our focus. We have to take it game by game.

“It’s in our hands so we have just got to keep picking up points.”

Wednesday will be without Fernando Forestieri for the second match running, with the former Italian Under-21 international set to complete his two-match suspension for his controversial red card at Hull City. Forestieri’s flair and trickery could have made the difference in a one-sided second half.

“Fernando was quiet and disappointed in the dressing room after the Hull game,” said Bennett. “All the team were gutted for him.

“He is an unbelievable player and we need him.”

There is a strong possibility Carvalhal will rotate his squad away to Brighton. Bennett, Liam Palmer, Sam Hutchinson and Lucas Joao could return. Joao produced an eye-catching display after coming on as a substitute at half-time last weekend.

Wednesday, nine points and five places better off than they were at this stage last season, have fired blanks in three out of their last four matches.

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