Sheffield Wednesday verdict: Owls 3 Preston 1

Kieran Lee opens the scoring. Pictures: Steve Ellis
Kieran Lee opens the scoring. Pictures: Steve Ellis
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Happy stories, personal milestones and special goals.

Saturday’s ‘War of the Roses’ clash will have put smiles on the faces of thousands of Wednesdayites across the land and given them plenty of optimism for the future.

The Owls go into the second international break sitting 10th in the standings, having won four matches on the spin for the first time since April 2012. Things are ticking along quite nicely.

There were a few tired-looking bodies and minds against Preston, but they still got the job done, scoring another three goals at Hillsborough.

Chairman Dejphon Chansiri demanded more goals and entertainment on home soil. Right now, head coach Carlos Carvalhal is delivering.

In clinching a third successive Championship victory, Wednesday rarely had to get out of second gear against a Preston side lacking confidence and self-belief after a poor run of form.

Daniel Pudil scores

Daniel Pudil scores

Kieran Lee marked his 100th Owls appearance in style by making the vital breakthrough on the stroke of half-time. A deft, audacious little flick by Fernando Forestieri sent Lee clear and the midfielder calmly drilled the ball past Jordan Pickford.

That clever touch by Forestieri, fit again following a hamstring problem, was worth the admission money on its own.

Lee’s strike was the killer blow as, up to that point, Preston had stifled and frustrated the hosts and appeared capable of derailing the Owls juggernaut.

Ten minutes after the interval, it was Daniel Pudil’s turn to take centre stage.

Lewis McGugan's wonder-goal

Lewis McGugan's wonder-goal

The Czech Republic international charged down John Welsh’s attempted clearance before coolly firing home from an acute angle for his first goal in Wednesday colours.

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Atdhe Nuhiu slid in, stretching out one of his big legs to touch in Pudil’s effort but the ball had already crossed the line.

It was fitting way for the Watford loanee to cap off a stressful 24 hours.

An emotionally-drained, weary-looking Pudil told the assembled media that it was one of the best weekends of his life.

He defied the odds, recovering from a hamstring problem, to be declared fit to play, despite taking part in just one training session.

Then, in the early hours of Saturday morning, Pudil’s girlfriend summoned him to hospital and gave birth to their second child, Ella.

He said: “I went to bed at 10pm and woke up around 3am because my missus called me and said it was time to go to the hospital. I put some shorts and a shirt on and was there for a couple of hours.

“My daughter was born at 5:20am. I stayed a little longer to make sure everything was okay and went back to bed. I went home and my little son, Danny, who is nearly five, was awake as well so he slept next to me.”

After sleeping for two hours, Pudil headed to the training ground and passed one final fitness test. His friends and family watched on as he rounded off a hectic period by grabbing his first goal in nearly two years.

“The game was perfect,” he said. “It was great to score the goal and celebrate with the team.

“This has been one of the best weekends of my life with my daughter being born, being able to play the game and to score a goal.”

With quarter of an hour remaining and his hamstring starting to tighten up, Pudil, who recently turned 30, asked to be taken off.

“When I was playing, I was struggling in the 75th minute but at that moment I was thinking about how my missus delivered our baby so I said to myself ‘I have to keep going and finish the game’,” he said. “I’m happy I played the full 90 minutes as I only had one session in the week.

“I was just thinking about my girlfriend and daughter.

“I’m really proud of myself and my missus because I was there when she had our baby and it was really tough for us and the team. I thought we deserved to win.”

Falling two goals behind seemed to galvanise Preston and Wednesday lost their way. The visitors carried a far greater attacking threat after substitutes Eoin Doyle and Jordan Hugill were introduced for former Owls duo Stevie May and Will Keane. Alan Browne’s 76th minute goal set up a frantic finish and the hosts were rocking. They never do things the easy way!

But magic from Lewis McGugan in added on time ensured Wednesday maintained their momentum.

McGugan underlined the extraordinary vision and technique he has in his locker, lobbing Pickford from 40 yards out, with the aid of a slight deflection, after the Preston goalkeeper had gone forward for a corner.

Cue further wild celebrations as Pudil and company basked in the glory of three more points.

Owls: Westwood 7; Hunt 7, Lees 7, Turner 7, Pudil 8; Wallace 6 (McGugan 67), Lee 7, Hutchinson 6, Bannan 8; Forestieri 6 (Lopez 85), Nuhiu 7 (Joao 67). Substitutes: Wildsmith, Loovens, Matias, Wiggins.

Preston: Pickford 7; Woods 6, Clarke 6, McCarthy 5 (Humphrey 10, 6), Cunningham 6; Johnson 6, Welsh 5, Browne 6, Reach 5; May 5 (Hugill 56, 7) Keane 5 (Doyle 56, 7). Substitutes: Kirkland, Heaton, Kilkenny, Gallagher.

Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northamptonshire).

Attendance: 20,383.