Abject display, awful result.
No-one should be fooled by the final scoreline at Deepdale.
Wednesday were second best throughout against Preston North End. 1-0 flattered the Owls, who produced a lethargic performance which lacked passion and pride.
After a frustrating summer off the pitch, the fans are fed up and they made their voices heard at the final whistle. Some of the 5,700 travelling contingent turned on the team and head coach Carlos Carvalhal, booing them off following their dismal showing in Lancashire.
The supporters deserved far better than what Wednesday served up. It is not cheap to watch the side home or away and the team let them down big time on Saturday. They failed to turn up.
“I understand the fans’ ‘frustration,” said Carvalhal. “Absolutely.
“I am frustrated also and we must change things very fast.
“I know over 5,000 travelled to Preston and there was not much for them to enjoy because we did not perform anywhere near the levels that we are capable of. We didn’t perform at even an average level.”
You know things are bad when Carvalhal, who usually defends his players to the hilt, is criticising his team. His expensively-assembled squad did not force Lilywhites goalkeeper Chris Maxwell into one serious save.
Wednesday played poorly in the Rangers friendly and it was hoped that would give them a much-needed wake-up call heading into the new campaign. But Preston was a new low.
Only goalkeeper Keiren Westwood emerged with some credit following the club’s first opening-day loss since 2013.
Preston, playing their first match under new boss Alex Neil, looked hungrier and sharper than Carvalhal’s men from the off. The hosts shaded a scrappy, dour opening 45 minutes where the lively Callum Robinson saw a 25-yard free-kick flash wide and summer signing Sean Maguire forced Westwood into a smart save at his near post.
Carvalhal admitted: We ran too much in the first half but with no brain. We ran with emotion. We ran a lot but not in good ways. We didn’t win too many second balls. Preston won all of them.”
Surely Wednesday, who have qualified for the play-offs in each of the last two seasons, would raise their game in the second half? Surely they would retain possession better and show more attacking intent?
Their passing continued to be sloppy and they lacked pace, cohesion and urgency in the final third.
Robinson headed straight at Westwood after a peach of a cross by captain Greg Cunningham before the speedy winger bent a shot around the left-hand post.
Ross Wallace, a second half replacement for George Boyd, looked keen to prove a point and was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet. He had Wednesday’s best chance, cutting inside on to his left foot before firing over the bar.
Owls old boy Tommy Spurr hit the bar with a header and Robinson drilled over before Daniel Johnson grabbed the 78th-minute winner from the penalty spot after substitute Jordan Hugill had been brought down by Tom Lees. Carvalhal had no complaints over the spot-kick and Johnson held his nerve from 12 yards.
The service into Wednesday’s forwards Fernando Forestieri and Jordan Rhodes was virtually non-existent all afternoon.
Rhodes thrives on crosses going into the box. He comes alive in the penalty area but the Owls are still not playing to his strengths - and he joined them from Middlesbrough six months ago.
Rhodes had scored four goals in his last three league meetings versus Preston but he never looked like adding to that tally at any stage last weekend. Wednesday have struggled to create chances for him and aren’t playing with the same fluency and rhythm they did in Carvalhal’s first year in charge.
‘What a waste of money’ the Preston crowd chanted as Rhodes was withdrawn before the hour mark. It is worrying how easily Preston shackled Rhodes and strike partner Fernando Forestieri, who worked hard but tried to do too much on his own having asked Carvalhal to play him up front rather than out wide.
“We knew they would block our strikers,” said Carvalhal. “We prepared our team to discover another way to achieve the positions to score but in reality we didn’t do that. It was a collective not an individual problem. We didn’t play our football and we must correct things.”
Carvalhal didn’t just blame the players for their no-show. He also held his hands up and accepted the responsibility for Wednesday’s failings.
The trouble is Carvalhal still looks unsure what his best team is and how to get the best out of certain individuals.
And little has changed in personnel or tactics from their most recent play-off disappointment. Opponents know exactly what to expect from Wednesday. Where’s the ‘Plan B?’
Carvalhal could do with freshening up his team more in the transfer window even if means selling one of his top performers.
Wednesday’s squad lacks balance and is short on pace. The team have too many strikers and not enough defenders.
Somehow Carvalhal needs to lift the gloom. The good news is there is a long way to go and it will be in May when the Owls are judged.
But it is abundantly clear the fans’ patience is beginning to wear thin with Carvalhal and the team.