A Westy wobble and an ugly grope: SEVEN takes from Sheffield Wednesday's defeat at Preston

The fairy godmother, adorned in trainers and a tired old baseball cap rather than the traditional tiara and tutu, flicked his wand but was unable to summon a fairy tale start as Sheffield Wednesday fell to defeat at Preston North End.

Sunday, 22nd November 2020, 7:58 am

There were vast differences in that they set up differently – deeper, in bigger numbers, a little more rigidly – but ultimately there was no overnight miracle in Tony Pulis’ first outing with the Owls.

Harsh it may be to describe the effort as so-so, but so-so it was; threaded with the traits of so-so efforts past. They huffed and puffed going forward, they lost the game to an individual defensive error and they had a man sent off.

Nothing much could reasonably have been expected to change in a few short days, Pulis said so himself.

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Sheffield Wednesday's Callum Paterson reacts to a missed shot during their 1-0 defeat at Preston.

Man down.. again

When Josh Windass was sent off after just 17 minutes for a mistimed high challenge on Joe Rafferty, Sheffield Wednesday players had accounted for 25 per cent of all red cards in the Championship this season.

They have collected four straight reds in six matches and like Joost van Aken and Kadeem Harris before him, Windass’ red will more than likely result in a three-match ban Wednesday’s squad cannot afford, particularly in his position.

It changed the game, offering Preston more space and a mental boost at a ground they had scored only one league goal at this season, losing all six. No longer of course..

The obliging guests

It’s become a horribly common theme. A team arrive to play Sheffield Wednesday dragging poor form with them and leave doing cartwheels to the sound of Hall and Oates.

Preston’s home form, such a mainstay in Championship life for several seasons, had been inexplicably dreadful this season. No longer.

The game was changed early doors of course, but whether it’s a mental block or a reflection of Wednesday’s standing in this division is irrelevant, they simply have to get better at beating teams that are out of form; their status in the division may ultimately depend on it.

Westy wobbles

A tame-looking ball over the top, a mistimed punch, a well-taken volley. Tom Barkhuizen’s 48th-minute strike may well have been the only goal scored between these two teams in they’d played into midweek.

And you can look at that in a number different ways; one hand commending the Owls for keeping the hosts quiet for so long with 10 men, the other lamenting yet another moment of madness costing them vital points.

Pulis said afterwards that Westwood had blamed a slip in his footing for the decision to punch, but the club’s senior keeper has been brought back in from the cold in no small part to inject a new confidence into those in front of him. Early days, but not a great start.

Börn-again

A huge positive out of the afternoon saw the centre-half pairing of Tom Lees and Julian Börner look robust with Liam Palmer and Joost van Aken either side of them.

The goal aside, Preston were kept at bay otherwise, making it all the more frustrating that Wednesday’s depleted attack was unable to muster a proper chance themselves.

In Garry Monk’s parting shot as Owls boss a long fortnight ago, he spoke at length about conversations he had had with Börner before he left. Now back in the side, he appears to have taken his new-found confidence into the Pulis era.

Depleted

Pulis made no secret of what he thought of the squad he inherited; he felt it lacked balance.

You don’t have to read too far between the lines to see he felt they didn’t have much going forward; without Harris and now without Windass, the holes are there for all to see.

He revealed afterwards that Jack Marriott had been returned to Derby County after suffering another soft tissue injury. It’ll see him into January, when it can be reasonably expected he’ll stay at Pride Park under new management. At face value, he’s probably not much of a Pulis forward anyway.

There is a degree of stock in the defence, who are without key man Dominic Iorfa and Aden Flint. These would be big misses for any Championship side and as the new boss said, it’s an area they desperately need to improve upon.

Early days

They trained hard this week. They battled hard on Saturday. Ultimately it came to nothing.

There were positive signs in how they set up; those famous Pulis ideals of hard work, stoicism and defensive aptitude, and there were glimmers of changes the Welshman will make going forward.

We’d have no doubt seen more were it not for Windass’ early dismissal. Wednesday set up with men in behind, setting up to counter through the pace of Adam Reach, Josh Windass and Moses Odubajo, operating as a traditional winger. With 10 men they couldn’t do that.

We’ll find out much more about Pulis’ Owls in the weeks to come.

What on earth?

It didn’t look good.

At a corner, Preston’s Darnell Fisher was seen grabbing at Callum Paterson’s genitals not once but twice. Not a graze, not an unintentional glance, a full on grab.

The circumstances over how it came to be may well be explained in the coming days. Men in other sports have been slapped with 10-week bans for less.

Teams

Preston North End; Rudd; Fisher; Bauer; Huntington; Rafferty (Gallagher, 45) Ledson (72), Johnson, Barkhuizen, Potts (Stockley, 45), Sinclair, Riis Jakobsen (Maguire, 71)

Subs unused; Earl, Pearson, Bayliss, Gallagher, Storey, Ripley, O'Reilly

Sheffield Wednesday; Westwood, Palmer, Lees, Börner, van Aken, Odubajo (Rhodes, 74), Paterson (Brown, 80), Luongo (62), Bannan, Reach, Windass (OFF, 17)

Subs unused; Wildsmith, Penney, Dele-Bashiru, Shaw, Hunt, Kachunga