Worst start in Owls' history

Preston 1Gallagher (28)Owls 0Attendance: 13,062

Sunday, 16th September 2007, 2:39 pm
Updated Monday, 17th September 2007, 11:21 am

WHEN defeat has waggled its beckoning finger, it's the in thing - or is it the spin thing? - in sport now to look for the positives.

In this case, it probably wasn't a bad idea because the build-up to this game had more negatives than an old photographic dark room.

Let's hold Preston up to the light first.

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Latest accounts show a 1.5 million loss; the chairman is stepping down at the next AGM; the fans, still dismayed by a late-season form dip that threw away a play-off spot, are restless (and angered by a 3-0 home defeat to Colchester) and a morning report suggested that manager Paul Simpson would be sacked if they lost this one.

Oh yes, they hadn't won a game either and got dumped out of the Carling Cup by Morecambe - at home too.

Dig the positives out of that little lot!

As for Wednesday, they're going to make a million-and-a-half profit and the chairman, far as we know, isn't planning to jump ship at the next AGM. And they had new players, and ones back to fitness, to bung in and make an exciting-looking new strikeforce.

Pick the positives out of that.

Except, on the cutting-room floor are the growing off-field problems, the latest being possible legal action against fans over certain website comments, and fears that even supporters may become split over the Wednesdayite issue.

Come 3pm, followers can put it all to one side, except Wednesday arrived as the only side in the country without a point and facing an unprecedented fifth straight league defeat from the beginning of a season, thus representing the worst start in the club's history.

Anyway, we'll have a quick scrabble around and look for those positives.

The second half for a start. They spent most of it battering away at an increasingly nervy Preston side who fell back (okay, a positive, they were pushed back) deeper and deeper as survival instincts took a grip.

That Wednesday deserved something is unarguable.

The outcome shouldn't make Brian Laws' selection judgement a wrong one.

He'd decided on six changes and, come an hour of growing need, reckoned on backing his new signings even if they weren't all fully match fit. It was a fair enough call.

Francis Jeffers and Akpo Sodje are his front pair and Laws will be looking for them to develop into a partnership.

Jeffers, of course, is stepping down a level and, as you'd expect, there were touches of quality. Sodje is stepping up a level, did okay and will need a touch longer to adjust the other way.

Etienne Esajas got his first start too, showed some lively and interesting flashes and bears some sort of playing resemblance to another Dutch winger Wednesday had in Reggie Blinker.

The major positive was the curling shot he bent against the far post (after quality touch from Jeffers and supply from Glenn Whelan) three minutes into the second half.

It almost made up for the first-half moment when he was not so much Blinker as blinkered. He was put away up the right by Whelan’s lovely pass, moved into the area and it just needed the ball sliding across into the six yard area for the incoming Jeffers.

However, the individualism in him tempted him to check back inside on his left foot for a shot and he was crowded out.

That was just about the first of the frustrations for Jeffers. When he showed touch and control to make some space as he moved towards the area, a sharp turn was ended when a defender’s leg left him on the floor.

My first instinct was a foul. It was the sort of challenge which, with an instant crowd reaction to it, a home team often gets. But the ref said ‘no’ and you could still hear the Wednesday fans at the other end booing when Preston went away and ended up scoring through Paul Gallagher after Lee Grant had made a sharp save from Andy Carroll’s shot.

Carroll, England Under-19 scorer in the week and on loan from Newcastle, caused problems and might well have had a second before further frustration for Jeffers.

He tricked Liam Chilvers who just managed to get back at the Wednesday man with a challenge that tumbled Jeffers in the area. When the ref said ‘no’ again, Jeffers jumped up and down on the spot in peeved displeasure.

But, Wednesday shouldn’t hide their first-half display behind those decisions. They looked too vulnerable defending and too individualistic going forward to warrant an argument for leading at the break.

One or two hadn’t made an impact and Preston had caused them some problems as Grant denied Darren Carter at the end of the half.

The second-half pattern was quickly established and it was no great surprise. Which ever of these two sides, desperate for that first win, got in front would make clinging to the lead the priority.

Once ahead, Preston virtually switched into survival mode. Wednesday pressed and probed and Jeffers’ final act before bowing to cramp was the perfect opportunity for the equaliser when he went clean through only for Andy Lonergan to defy the attempt to slide the ball in.

Wednesday kept pushing. But when a team finally get their nose in front, they scrap away to hold on to it.

A scrappy win then for the home side. For all the brave talk of bold attacking - and there were some encouraging signs - Wednesday would certainly settle for such a win, any old win, this week.