Sheffield Wednesday went into this game looking to turn their fortunes around following a much needed International Break. Faced by Preston North End, who hadn’t won a game at home yet this season, The Owls fell to a 1-0 away loss against Alex Neil’s side.
This match promised to be a match up of two teams in poor form in the league and it certainly did not disappoint. Coming into this game, both teams had lost three of their previous five matches, with both teams looking to improve their form following the International Break.
After a promising draw against Millwall last time out and a surprise victory against Bournemouth before that, Wednesday made four changes for Tony Pulis’ first game in charge. Kieran Westwood made his first Wednesday appearance for over a year since being frozen out by Garry Monk, while the hugely important Massimo Luongo returned to partner Barry Bannan in midfield. Pulis’ desire to shore up the defensive areas was clear to see with Van Aken, a natural centre half being deployed at left back.
For Preston, Alex Neil made two changes to his team with Patrick Bauer and Tom Barkhuizen coming in as The Lilywhites sought to record their first home victory of the season.
From the off Preston dominated the ball, with Wednesday taking the somewhat cautious and defensive approach expected of any Tony Pulis side. Despite this, the first chance came to Wednesday with Barry Bannan heading the ball down to Josh Windass who’s shot went wide from range.
Although the game started without a great deal to get excited about, that all changed in the 17th minute when Windass raised his foot in an attempt to flick the ball on to a teammate. Catching Preston’s Joe Rafferty in the chest, Windass gave the referee no choice but to give him a red card.
From a Wednesday perspective, the disciplinary issues are stacking up. This was the fourth straight red card of the season for The Owls and yet another bump in the road for Tony Pulis’ men.
At this point it looked as if Preston had the perfect opportunity to build on their dominance in terms of possession and capitalise on their man advantage. This didn’t come to fruition however as Wednesday stood strong with Lees and Börner getting the better of Preston’s attackers in the remainder of the first half. The only real chance of note following the red card was a Ryan Ledson attempt that flew past the right hand upright, which Westwood watched all the way.
With little attacking penetration from Preston in the first half, Alex Neil made two attacking changes at the break with Paul Gallagher and Jayden Stockley coming on to try and mix things up going forwards.
Half-time Preston North End 0-0 Sheffield Wednesday
Not long after the second half restarted, many Wednesday fans were rueing the decision to play Westwood in goal despite Joe Wildsmith recording two clean sheets in the past two games. Westwood’s attempt to punch a cross away fell to Barkhuizen, who wonderfully smashed a well-struck volley into the back of the Wednesday net. Although Pulis said post-match that Westwood is “experienced enough to take the mistake” there is no doubt that this error will knock the confidence of the newly reinstated Number One.
Despite going behind and facing the fact that they rarely come back into games in which they concede first, Wednesday went about trying to save their blushes. When the ball fell to Moses Odubajo just inside the box, most Wednesday fans probably hoped that any other one of their attackers was on the end of that ball instead. When the ball went wide of the target it confirmed how Pulis is going to approach the games in the distant future. With fullbacks like Odubajo playing on the wing, defence will certainly be main priority.
With the introduction of Jordan Rhodes and Izzy Brown later in the half, Wednesday fans may have hoped for more. However, the only other significant chance fell to Preston’s Stockley, who headed Gallagher’s free kick over the bar.
With no real urgency from Wednesday, the game was easily controlled by Alex Neil’s side right up until the end. For an Owls team with a new manager, the promising signs were few and far between. Facing a Preston team without a win at Deepdale so far this season, Wednesday’s game plan went out the window early on following Josh Windass’ dismissal.
Wednesday fans will be hoping Pulis can turn the team’s fortunes around going into a tough away fixture against Swansea next week. With various injuries and suspensions all over the pitch, all Owls fans can do is hope that Pulis works quickly.
As for Preston, a first home win of the season will build confidence going into a Lancashire derby against a Blackburn Rovers side in good form.
Full-time Preston North End 1-0 Sheffield Wednesday