sheffield Wednesday emerged from Preston with a double bonus today, three more points plus the news that goalkeeper Stephen Bywater is rejoining the Owls. Bywater will sign from Derby on a free transfer until the end of the season. Gary Megson revealed the signing after this latest win, and Bywater and Nicky Weaver will compete for the keeper’s jersey for the game against Tranmere on Monday.
Preston North End v Sheffield Wednesday
Preston North End:Stuckman, Gray, Morgan, McCombe, Smith, Mayor, Barton, Coutts, Parry , Hume, Proctor
Subs: Turner, McLaughlin, Carlisle, Douglas, Tsoumou.
Sheffield Wednesday: Weaver, Otsemobor, Batth, Llera, Johnson (R), Tavernier, Semedo, Lines, Marshall, O’Grady, Lowe.
Subs: Prutton, Palmer, Watt, O’Donnell, Jones (D).
Referee: Eddie Ilderton, Tyne & Wear
Megson sprang a surprise recalling Jon Otsemobor for his first start in four months.
Back from injury, Otsemobor came in at right back with James Tavernier pushing forward to the right side of midfield
and no place for David Prutton.
There was confusion during the game because the original teamsheet had Prutton starting and not Chris Lines, and an almost entirely different bench.
Weaver also returned to the side, coming in for Richard O’Donnell after a four month injury lay off, but Rob Jones was kept out by his backtrouble so Miguel Llera started.
Jose Semedo was handed the captain’s armband.
Neil Mellor used the match programme, to thank Wednesday and their fans for his enjoyable stay with the club last season.
The former Owls loan star, who is out of the Preston team until March because of a knee injury also said “It is also a club
that myself and my family will always look out for and want to do well. It was a great experience playing for Wednesday.”
He added, “The most important thing for me is Preston’s success, finishing in the top two has been the target all season.
If not, then we want to finish in the play off places.”
Those Wednesday fans numbered 4,000 today and they were roaring in response to a goal in only the fourth minute. Wednesday forced pressureand won a corner, a right side ball from Lines saw BATTH leap to put away a downward header from close range and notch his first goal forthe club.
Preston were halted by a great tackle by Llera in a high tempo start for both sides.
The Owls then should have gone two nil up, in the 14th minute. A great ball from Semedo sent Lowe in to space, down the inside right
channel but the striker took too much time on the edge of the box and with defenders and the keeper converging on him, his low effort
was blocked by Stuckman.
It was a confident start by the Owls who looked solid at the back and across midfield. They had beenhugely encouraged tby he fans behind Weaver’s goal.
The away supporters were perhaps given a scare in the 25th minute. Big centre forward Proctor was looking to reach a flick forward but the ball was intercepted by Llera with the ball appearing to strike the defender’s arm just inside the area.
Any contact was accidental but there was an appeal for handball by the Preston fans while it was significant that none of the Preson players appealed.
Hume was limping, which required treatment and eventually he had to be replaced in the 31st minute - a blow for the experience striker who had only recently come back after an eight week lay off with a knee injury. He was replaced by
Tsoumou, the forward who played on trial for Sheffield Wednesday, but was released and joined North End after another trial spell.
Marshall was looking to make it 2-0 via a typical run as he cut into the box from the left. His shot was deflected and then held by the keeper but the ball had gone over the line for an unpoductive corner.
A fine ball by Reda Johnson was followed by a clever turn in the box by O’Grady resulted in two corners and blocked shots for Tavernier and Llera. Excellent play by Wednesday in their own half was followed by a foul on Lowe, just inside Preston’s half.
Otsemobor swung the free kick out to the left where MARSHALL was waiting with a bit of time on the ball and with team-mates waiting at the far side for a cross.
Whether it was an attempted cross or a deliberate shot, the winger clipped the ball in fairly near to goal and it took a deflection to beat the keeper on his left hand post on the 42nd minute.
The scorer sprinted off to celebrate with Wednesday staff while the fans chanted the familiar “Sign him up.”
In stoppage time, a low ball from Marshall from the by-line put the home side in all kinds of trouble but they managed to scramble it away. It had been a very encouraging first half for Wednesday and their fans.
Preston North End 0 Sheffield Wednesday 2
TPreston had their first real chance of the game, seven minutes after the restartwhen right winger Mayor caused problems for the Owls. When the ball was played inside to centre back McCombe, he was presented with a chance from 18 yards and struck it over the bar.
A minute later, Lowe could have made it 3-0, scuffing a close range effort at the keeper after being set up by Lines. An even better opportunity soon followed. After a great build up down the right involving both Tavernier and O’Grady, Lines went steaming through the middle, ignoring the unmarked Lowe to his left before hitting a shot low that went straight to the keeper. Lowe could not have been happy and the striker reacted furiously after once again being ignored four minutes later.
O’Grady was up there with him as well, when Tavernier took advantage of a Preston error, surging through the right side of the box but the full back had a rush of blood and shot wildly wide of the near post.
Lowe must have been seething with frustration when he was taken off a minute later in the 61st minute and replaced up front by loanee Sanchez Watt.
Preston responded by replacing striker Proctor, bringing on Douglas. The home side were throwing men forward but leaving gaps at the back and Wednesday looked dangerous whenever they came forward. It was Sanchez Watt’s turn to try for that elusive third goal as he went throw the middle but hewas closed down and his 25 yard effort was blocked. When Tavernier drilled the ball in to the box, it struck McCombe and there was a gigantic appeal for handballby the travelling support and O’Grady, close to the incident seemed to be asking for the spot kick aswell but nothing was given.
When Preston did make an opportuinity, Tsoumou failed to make the most of it, heading tamely at Weaver from21 yards.
The Owls had a bigger scare when a difficult cross had Weaver struggling in the air, he couldn’t hold it and the ball came out to Parry. The left winger’s low shot was cleared off the line by Llera, who had been in impressive form throughout the afternoon.
Tavernier, who had been eye catching playing on the right side of midfield was replaced by Palmer in the 82nd minute. Parry glanced a diving header wide and there still didn’t seem much prospect of Wednesday relinquishing their grip on the game. Megson took off Marshall and replaced him with Prutton in a switch to a 4-5-1 formation.
The Owls should have had a penalty in the final minute of normal time. After a clever backheel
by O’Grady, Smith brought down Sanchez Watt but nothing was given.
The Owls looked more solid in stoppage time than they had done in the previous two games.
During an extra three minutes, Preston threatened with a low ball in to the near post, but once again Llera cut the ball out and Wednesday bounced back with an excellent performance and