GARY Madine had the last word after taking his goal tally to five in the last six games with an expertly taken double.
He did not just celebrate his 17th goal of the season and the clinching of victory - he made a beeline for the Lilywhites’ dug-out and delivered a verbal volley.
A member of their staff had accused him of “falling over”, said the striker.
“I’ll not tell you what he called us,” he added. “He shook my hand after the game and said I shut him up. Fair enough.”
Fans could only sing the praises of the man who could now be a vital influence during the promotion run-in.
Preston manager Graham Westley called it a “goalkeeping error” when Madine beat Thorsten Stuckmann at his near post. But
it was a super strike.
His header was a classic centre-forward’s header, powered into the bottom corner and giving the goalkeeper no chance.
Take away that deadly finishing and Preston would have succeeded in taking the point that seemed the height of their ambitions.
Westley complained about four of his players allegedly informing the Owls in advance of his line-up, his motive apparently to illustrate the sort of problems he faces.
But this was nothing more than a side issue and appeared to have no impact on the game. Wednesday fielded an expected line-up and their own research probably told them what to expect anyway: tactics aimed at frustrating them.
With only one up front and a defensive midfield man in front of their back four,
Preston had nothing to offer going forward. They slowed the game down, impeded the Owls by fair means or foul and seemed to be interested only in stopping them from playing.
Dave Jones was spot on to say: “It’s very difficult when you’re playing against a side who basically are trying to shut up shop. That’s when you have to be patient. We could have scored in the first half; then it becomes easier.
“It’s up to us to break them down. It gets frustrating on and off the pitch.”
In fairness to Preston, they have been struggling lately, and a point at Hillsborough, how ever it was achieved, would have been seen by their fans as a good result for a manager who had been getting some stick from them.
Westley said: “If you come to Hillsborough to play an open game, you’ll probably get hammered. Especially with the form we’ve been in, it isn’t the sensible way to go about things.”
The visitors contributed towards making it perhaps the most dour 45 minutes seen in an Owls match this season.
The best moments in this period were a shot sidefooted past the angle by Jermaine Johnson, from a pass by Michail Antonio after Jose Semedo played a great ball down the line, an on-target drive by Johnson that, strangely, was punched over the bar by a keeper who had an uncomfortable afternoon.
Wednesday had to find a higher tempo and more penetration but stayed patient and made it a brighter second half.
When they did score the move was started by a Lewis Buxton throw-in midway in their own half. Madine headed it on, Johnson and Nile Ranger were involved in the middle of the park, Chris Lines played the final ball and Madine, who had run in behind the defence, lashed his shot into the top corner from 18 yards.
Preston made a double substitution and switched to 4-4-2 but two minutes later were killed off when Madine produced his powered his a marvellous header from six yards from a long throw by Antonio.
The hat-trick should have come in the 72nd minute when, from a Ranger flick-on, Madine lofted a volley over the bar.
“I felt somebody on my right-hand side and thought it was a defender. I panicked a bit,” he said.
Then Antonio was too selfish in going for goal when Johnson and Madine were up in support; Madine put a header on to the roof of the net and Antonio got crowded out in the box after chesting forward another terrific ball from Semedo.
So it could have been an even more convincing win as the Owls recorded their first double over Preston in 78 years, after their 2-0 New Year’s Eve victory at Deepdale.
Manager Jones has added Paul Wilkinson, former reserve-team manager at Cardiff, to his backroom staff.