BIG MATCH REWIND: Jay gives flair players licence to thrill
OWEN Coyle’s insurance policy paid dividends at Hillsborough, giving Wanderers ’ flair players a chance to speculate and accumulate.
The addition of Jay Spearing to the midfield has not only added a touch of defensive steel to the squad over the last few games, it has also enabled the shackles to be taken off Chris Eagles and Mark Davies .
Sitting just behind Keith Andrews, who was also given a licence to venture forward and link up with the front two, the on-loan Liverpool midfielder mopped up virtually everything Sheffield Wednesday tried to play through, or that which was cleared from the back four.
With the knowledge that Spearing, pictured, was patrolling behind them, wingers Eagles and Davies pushed on in possession and made the Whites a much more fluid proposition in attack, particularly when feeding off the knock-downs from target man Kevin Davies .
That link-up play had been missing earlier in the season, when Wanderers often looked susceptible on the break after gambling too many people forward.
What has also been impressive about Spearing, who, let’s not forget, is still just 23, is his willingness to direct traffic in front of him. Almost always in contact with the other midfield general Andrews, his communication seems to have galvanised a midfield that had often found itself over-run.
Coyle paid tribute to the Wirral-born youngster after Saturday’s 2-1 win, claiming the improved form of both Eagles and Mark Davies has been due in no small measure to Spearing’s arrival.
“He’s made such a big difference,” said the Wanderers boss. “All of a sudden, Mark Davies has been able to play 10-15 yards further up the park and that’s where he is most dangerous.
“Chris Eagles was the same and he went on a run in the first half that could have ended up with a world class goal. He was only in that position at the time because he knew Jay was there and that he would be able to push on.
“I think since he has been there we have looked more solid but it has also had an effect on the football we have played going forward.
“I accept we created so many opportunities and spurned a lot, but I think someone is going to get a hiding one of these days because there's no doubt in my mind that it will fall for us.”
Eagles is Wanderers' top scorer at present with four goals, having been employed on the left wing since Martin Petrov was dropped after the first game of the season.
Although the player himself has stated he is happier playing off a central striker, Coyle believes using him out wide gives his team an extra dimension, as opposed to the rather more orthodox wide man in Petrov.
“I thought Martin Petrov did well the other night coming off the left against Birmingham, but Eagles has been absolutely flying,” he said. “He can go outside, he can go inside, he can score, cross them in, and while he's in that form we want to maintain that.”