Sheffield Wednesday pay the penalty for slow start as their fail to end Preston North End hoodoo

What is it about trips to Preston North End that bring out the worst in the Owls?

Sunday, 25th August 2019, 07:00 am
Updated Sunday, 25th August 2019, 10:20 am

It is nearly 70 years since Wednesday recorded a league victory at Deepdale in the second tier.

They had the opportunity to improve that wretched record on Saturday.

But their disappointing 2-1 defeat means the Owls have won just one of their last 22 matches away to Preston (W11 D10 L1) - a 2-0 triumph in League One in December 2011.

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The truth is there was nothing in the opening half an hour. It was, as caretaker Owls boss Lee Bullen pointed out post-match, not a good spectacle.

Things were fairly even. The three points were there for the taking.

But poor decision-making let Wednesday down at key moments.

Right-back Moses Odubajo had an afternoon to forget, conceding not just one but two penalties to enable Daniel Johnson to bag his third and fourth goals in a week.

Only Odubajo will know why he let the ball bounce and allowed Sean Maguire to get the wrong side of him on the left hand side of the box for the opener.

Odubajo hauled Maguire down and Johnson fired low to the left of Keiren Westwood, who got a hand to the ball but could not keep it out.

Wednesday were too passive. Their play was pedestrian and predictable. Too many players had off days and Preston comfortably had the better of the midfield battle.

There was a sense of déjà vu when Preston doubled their advantage in the 65th minute after Odubajo clumsily tripped Maguire in the area. Johnson stepped up and sent Westwood the wrong way from 12 yards to leave the Owls with an uphill task.

Midfielder Sam Hutchinson in action at Preston

Two soft penalties. Two daft goals to give away.

For 70 to 75 minutes, Wednesday seemed laboured and looked bereft of ideas in the final third. They barely asked any questions of Preston's back four.

But the visitors improved late on after Bullen tweaked their personnel and system. His three substitutes added a spark, with Atdhe Nuhiu particularly causing havoc in attack alongside Fernando Forestieri and Steven Fletcher. Roared on by over 4,000 Wednesdayites, Nuhiu was a handful and bullied the Preston defence.

"They just basically banged the ball from back to front, hoping to pick any scraps," said Preston chief Alex Neil.

The visitors direct approach and switch to a 3-4-3 formation gave them a belated foothold in the contest and Fletcher set up a grand-stand finish by heading home Adam Reach's superb left wing cross.

The Owls threw everything bar the kitchen sink at Preston but it was too little, too late as the Lilywhites dug deep to claim a third straight home win to move above Bullen's men in the table.

It has taken Wednesday too long to get going in their last three fixtures. While Luton Town let them off the hook, Millwall and Preston have capitalised on the Owls' sluggish starts.

If Wednesday are to get back on track before the first international break of the season and boost Bullen's hopes of landing the permanent manager's job on a full-time basis, they need to quickly rediscover their high intensity pressing game.