Sheffield Wednesday match report: Preston North End 1 Owls 0

Preston North End v Sheffield Wednesday
Preston North End v Sheffield Wednesday
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Sheffield Wednesday kicked off their 2017/18 Championship campaign with a disappointing 1-0 defeat away to Preston North End.

Midfielder Daniel Johnson's 79th minute penalty condemned the Owls to their first opening-day loss in four years.

Jamaican international Johnson calmly slotted home after Tom Lees had been adjudged to have brought down substitute Jordan Hugill.

Wednesday, last season's play-off semi-finalists, could have lost by a far bigger margin had Preston's finishing been better and there were some boos from the away end following the final whistle.

Owls boss Carlos Carvalhal handed new signing George Boyd his Owls debut. He was stationed on the right flank with Preston old boy Adam Reach selected on the opposite wing.

Fernando Forestieri, sent off in his last two appearances against Preston, spearheaded the attack with record-signing Jordan Rhodes.

Fresh from shrugging off a hamstring problem, Glenn Loovens lined up at centre-half alongside Tom Lees, with Daniel Pudil moving to left-back.

Before a ball was even kicked in anger, Wednesday suffered a setback with the news that a deal for free agent Johan Djourou had fallen through. Talks are understood to have broken down with defender, although the Owls could still reignite their interest in the 30-year-old.

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Defences were well on top in the early skirmishes at Deepdale.

Lees made a good block to deny Alan Browne a sight at goal in the 11th minute as Preston looked to kick off Alex Neil's reign in a positive fashion.

Midway through the half, Ben Pearson became the first player to be yellow carded after a strong challenge on Rhodes.

Wednesday, well-organised and compact defensively, struggled to get their offensive game going and the hosts shaded a boring, forgettable first half.

Callum Robinson curled a 25-yard free kick well wide of Keiren Westwood's right-hand upright after a clumsy challenge by Sam Hutchinson.

It was Preston who carried the greater attacking threat and Westwood produce a smart save at his near post to turn away debutant Sean Maguire's fierce low drive.

Cheered on by 5,700 fans, the Owls were careless in possession and looked short on ideas and quality in the final third, with Reach drilling a shot from long range well wide of the target minutes before half-time.

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Preston made a bright start to the second period, with Greg Cunningham whipping in a teasing cross from the left which winger Robinson headed straight at Westwood when well-placed.

Maguire, deployed as a lone striker by the Lilywhites, caused Wednesday's backline problems with his pace and clever movement. He fizzed in a dangerous cross which Westwood dived to cut out and Lees scrambled the loose ball away to safety.

The visitors lack of creativity prompted Carvalhal to replace Rhodes with Gary Hooper before the hour mark.

But Preston continued to dominate and Robinson's right foot curler flew agonisingly off target following a rapid counter attack

Ross Wallace almost made an instant impact for the Owls after coming on as a second half replacement. The wide man, playing against his former club, cut inside on to his favoured left foot and saw his rasping strike go just over.

Fortune was on Wednesday's side in the 75th minute when Tommy Spurr's header from Paul Gallagher's corner struck the crossbar, with Cunningham unable to turn the loose ball home.

Moments later, Robinson fired over again but Preston were not to be denied and Johnson coolly held his nerve from 12 yards to ensure new boss Neil made a winning start.

Preston: Maxwell; Fisher, Huntington, Spurr, Cunningham; Pearson, Browne (Hugill 67); Barkhuizen, Johnson, Robinson; Maguire (Gallagher 74). Substitutes: Rudd, Vermijl, Horgan, Davies, May.

Owls: Westwood; Hunt, Lees, Loovens, Pudil; Boyd (Wallace 67), Bannan, Hutchinson (Jones 69), Reach; Forestieri, Rhodes (Hooper 56). Substitutes: Wildsmith, Fox, Fletcher, Nuhiu.

Attendance: 18,267

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