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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Big Match Preview

Sheffield Wednesday vs. Peterborough United
Saturday January 23, 15:00, Hillsborough

Two Championship strugglers meet in a crucial six pointer in South Yorkshire this weekend as new Sheffield Wednesday manager Alan Irvine takes charge of his first home game.

Irvine, who was surprisingly dismissed by Preston at the end of December, took over at Hillsborough 10 days later to join a Wednesday team languishing in the bottom three.

It that was drop into the relegation zone which saw the Owls part company with Brian Laws before turning to Irvine who help lead their battle against the drop to League One.

And the 51-year-old got off to the perfect start with a 2-1 win at local rivals Barnsley at the weekend - the club's first win in three months - followed by victory at Blackpool by the same scoreline on Tuesday night.

Wednesday's struggles this season have come as a surprise though. Last season's top half finish was supposed to be followed by a push for the play-offs, but things haven't gone according to plan as they lie 21st.

However, Irvine can still call upon the services of the likes of forwards Marcus Tudgay and Jermaine Johnson and in Lee Grant the Owls have one of the top keepers in the division.

If Wednesday are in need of points though, opponents Peterborough require a win even more than their hosts with Mark Cooper's side currently rock bottom of the Championship.

Irvine and Cooper have taken over clubs in relegation danger

Cooper, who replaced Darren Ferguson as boss at London Road in November, has managed just a single win in his nine league games at Posh to date - a 2-1 victory over Watford.

Last weekend they slumped to a poor 3-0 home defeat to Derby, a result which leaves them a full five points adrift of safety.

Posh, promoted as runners-up from League One last season, are also the only side in the division yet to record an away win - so will be up against it in the Steel City.

Just four draws in their 12 away fixtures sum up what has a struggling season of transition for the Cambridgeshire outfit who have found the step-up in quality too big.

However, on their day they have the quality going forwards to trouble any side - as shown in their recent fightback from 4-0 down to draw with Cardiff.

Should the likes of Aaron McLean, George Boyd, and Craig Mackail-Smith find their shooting boots then United have the firepower to trouble Irvine's men this weekend.

A new manager usually has a honeymoon period though, and Wednesday should be buoyant after their victories at Oakwell and Bloomfield Road. It's a game Peterborough really can't afford to lose, but they might just.

Nobes' Prediction: Sheffield Wednesday 1 Peterborough United 0

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