CHERRIES boss Eddie Howe has described Sheffield Wednesday as “dangerous opponents” and knows birthday boy Stuart Gray will be out to “spoil our party”.
Howe’s promotion hopefuls tomorrow host the South Yorkshire outfit at Dean Court knowing victory could be crucial if they are to keep alive their play-off hopes (3pm).
Wednesday, whose Championship status appeared under threat following a dismal first half to the season, have been revitalised under new head coach Gray, who tomorrow turns 54.
The former Southampton boss, who worked under Howe for a brief period at Burnley, was appointed permanently in January and has guided the Owls to safety.
Howe told the Daily Echo: “Stuart has done a great job. He took on a difficult task as they had been a little inconsistent during the early stages but he has put together a really good run and they have been one of the form teams in the second half of the season.
“They are dangerous opponents for us. They will not be going down and will not be involved in the promotion battle either. They will come here with that freedom of a team which wants to spoil our party and that is what will make them dangerous.
“Stuart has got them playing good football. They have changed their style slightly and have some good players.
"They have brought in a couple of good loan players as well and have real experience in their squad.
"They have players who have been there and done it at this level. I think we know what to expect from them but they have real quality in the front areas.”
Five successive wins, including triumphs over high-flying QPR and Reading, thrust Cherries into the play-off picture – although a sixth eluded them after they were held to a 1-1 draw at Yeovil five days ago.
Howe added: “We knew Yeovil was going to be as tough a game as QPR and Reading. Nobody gives you anything in this league and every game is a potential defeat if you are not at your best.
“We know our energy levels dipped against Yeovil and the games against QPR and Reading took a lot out of the players. I hope we get our zip back for Sheffield Wednesday.
"We are under no illusions that we need to match the levels we showed against QPR and Reading if we are to get a positive result.”
Howe has the luxury of a full-strength squad to choose from with defender Charlie Daniels and winger Mohamed Coulibaly both back in contention, while striker Lewis Grabban is expected to be fit after being substituted at Yeovil due to fatigue.
“The squad is looking in pretty good shape,” said Howe.
“Lewis had been fatigued from the run of games we have had and we certainly need to be careful with him.
“We have a very talented squad and are lucky to be blessed with people who want to play and show their worth.
"I will assess things after the game to see if we need to make changes for Ipswich on Monday. I certainly feel we have the strength in depth if I think it is the right decision.”
- CHERRIES fans have voted Eddie Howe as the club’s greatest manager as part of the Football League’s 125th anniversary celebrations.
The 36-year-old took 63 per cent of the vote, his nearest rival being Harry Redknapp on 24 per cent.
In his first spell at Dean Court, Howe saved Cherries from relegation from League Two and then gained promotion to League One.
After a brief spell at Burnley, he led Cherries into the Championship in 2012-13.