Sheffield Wednesday match report: Preston North End 1 Owls 1
Adam Reach grabbed his first goal for Sheffield Wednesday in added on time to help the Owls secure a 1-1 draw at Preston North End.
The club-record signing lashed home from close range after a goalmouth scramble to seal a valuable point for Wednesday in their battle for promotion.
Sam Hutchinson's 77th minute own goal deservedly put Preston ahead but Reach's late strike means the Owls stay sixth in the table, although three points would have moved them up to third in the standings.
There was one notable change to Wednesday's starting line-up. Striker Fernando Forestieri, sent off in his last two meetings with Preston, did not travel due to a knock. His injury misfortune meant Atdhe Nuhiu made only his second league start of the season.
Kieran Lee (hip) was also not involved for the second match running.
There was little to choose between the two sides early on. It was a cagey affair and Preston had a penalty appeal turned down when Paul Gallagher raced on to Aiden McGeady's pass and collided with Keiren Westwood but referee Andy Woolmer was not interested.
For our Owls news and opinion on twitter follow hereWestwood then had to be alert, diving to his right to turn behind Callum Robinson's rasping 20 yard drive.
Moments later, midfield playmaker Gallagher fired over from long range as the hosts continued to pose most of the problems.
Without the creative instincts of Forestieri, the Owls lacked pace and imagination in the final third.
Simon Makienok should have done better with a header midway through the half following an inviting centre by the lively Robinson.
It took a vital block by Nuhiu to prevent Robinson from testing the reflexes of Westwood as Preston carried on edging a scrappy contest.
There was just no pace or zip to Wednesday's play and it was no surprise Carvalhal freshened things up at half-time, throwing on David Jones for Nuhiu. The tactical rejig saw Jones move into the centre, Barry Bannan switch to the left flank and Adam Reach go up front to partner Steven Fletcher.
But Preston came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock when full-back Alex Baptiste drilled over after Huntington headed down Daniel Johnson's centre.
Cheered on by over 4,300 Wednesdayites, the Owls started to impose their will more on Preston and Tom Clarke's immaculate header stopped Fletcher from potentially turning in Bannan's dangerous cross.
Things briefly started to open up, with McGeady shooting low into the side-netting after jinking his way past Lees.
McGeady, who struggled to make an impact while on loan at Wednesday last season, saw his cross palmed away by Westwood. Gallagher's effort was then blocked by Daniel Pudil.
Robinson, a lively presence throughout, had a goal disallowed for off-side before stinging the palms of Westwood, with the Republic of Ireland international gathering his shot at the second time of asking.
For more news from Hillsborough click hereAnd their pressure duly paid off in the closing stages, with Hutchinson turning in Greg Cunningham's cross.
The goal was no more than Preston deserved and McGeady could have doubled their advantage. The winger's right foot curler from just outside the penalty area came back off the post much to Wednesday's relief. Westwood then saved Clarke's powerful header.
It was a disjointed, lethargic display from the visitors for long periods and Steven Fletcher's overhead kick drifted inches wide as they pushed for an unlikely equaliser.
But Reach's late intervention means the Owls finish a positive 2016 in sixth place.
Preston: Maxwell; Baptiste, Clarke, Huntington. Cunningham; Gallagher, Johnson, Pearson, McGeady (Browne 89); Robinson (Spurr 86), Makienok (Hugill 60). Substitutes: Vermijl, Doyle, Pringle, Lindegaard
Wednesday: Westwood; Palmer (Hunt 62), Lees, Loovens, Pudil; Wallace (Joao 80), Bannan, Hutchinson, Reach; Fletcher, Nuhiu (Jones HT). Substitutes: Wildsmith, Sasso, Sougou, Hirst.
Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northamptonshire)