Date: 5th August 2006 at 9:54pm
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The Owls will be happy with a draw on the road to last season’s play-off semi-finalists – especially after the second half sending off of Lee Bullen and the fact that only one fit striker travelled to Lancashire for the opening game of the new Championship season.

Wednesday had their fair share of chances, with Chris Brunt having a goal disallowed for hand-ball and also looping a close-range effort over the bar with his right foot. Although Paul Simpson’s men pressured the 10-man Owls in the final 15 minutes, Owls boss Paul Sturrock will see day one of the new season as ‘job done’.

Team News:

Preston boss Paul Simpson had a mini-crisis in defence after key defender Youl Mawene picked up an injury in the Lilywhite pre-season victory over Manchester United. Youngster Luke Chilvers slotted in the defence in place of Mawene.

New summer recruit from Leeds, Danny Pugh, started for Preston on the left hand side while David Nugent partnered Danny Dichio in attack for the hosts.

Owls boss Paul Sturrock opted for the 4-4-1-1 formation he used in the pre-season friendly against Middlesbrough last weekend, but with Chris Brunt playing behind sole striker Steve Maclean instead of new recruit Kenny Lunt.

Transfer-listed Glenn Whelen came in to the centre of midfield alongside Yoann Folly with Burton O’Brien switching to the left hand side and Lee Bullen on the right.

John Hills had done enough to impress the Owls boss after recovering from injury and started at left back with youngster Tommy Spurr on the bench. Fellow academy product Sean McAllister was also included in the squad.

Loanee Brad Jones went straight into the side with Chris Adamson dropping to the bench.

Preston: Nash, Alexander, Chilvers, St. Ledger, Hill (Wilson 75), Whaley, Jarrett (Stock 74), McKenna, Pugh, Nugent, Dichio (Agyemang 66).
Subs Not Used: Lonergan, Sedgwick.

Wednesday: Jones, Simek, Bougherra, Coughlan, Hills, Bullen, Folly, Whelan, O’Brien, MacLean (Small 80), Brunt (McAllister 87).
Subs Not Used: Adamson, Lunt, Spurr.

Match Report:

The 3,200 travelling Barmy Army could be forgiven for hoping the Owls put in a better performance than the last 0-0 bore draw at Deepdale back on boxing day 2005, but give them a similar result and they’d have probably snapped your hand off.

Both sides got off to a frantic start in the first ten minutes but it was the home side who got the first real opportunity in front of goal when new boy Sean St Ledger was on the end of a Graham Alexander cross but his effort was well saved by Brad Jones in the Wednesday goal.

Transfer-listed Owls midfielder Glenn Whelen was out to prove a point to the Owls boss and had two early efforts at the PNE goal. His first long-range effort was closer for a throw-in than a goal-kick but his second effort was glanced just wide of Carlo Nash’s goal after a Burton O’Brien cross.

Referee Walton gave an early yellow card to PNE striker David Nugent for kicking the ball away in frustration, but that was to be one of the few decisions that went Wednesday’s way.

The former Bury man then went chasing after a hopeful throughball and clashed into loanee ‘keeper Brad Jones, bringing jeers from the travelling Wednesday fans behind Nash’s goal.

Nugent was centre of attention again minutes later when he picked the ball up at the edge of the box before his effort was deflected just wide of Jones’ far post for a corner.

Wednesday were having their fair share of chances at the other end though and Steve Maclean almost took advantage of a mix up between ‘keeper Nash and St Ledger before the PNE defender recovered and cleared the ball to safety.

The best chance of the half came on the half hour mark as former Owls target Simon Whaley ran dangerously in to the Wednesday half before putting Nugent through on goal. Fortunately for the Owls Nugent blasted his short wide of the goal despite being clean through on goal.

On the stroke of half-time Wednesday thought they made the crucial breakthrough as Chris Brunt ran through on goal and lobbed the ball neatly over Nash to the delight of the Wednesday fans. But the referee had spotted a handball by Brunt and disallowed it.

The home side came out all guns blazing in the second half and had a brilliant opportunity through hitman David Nugent just one minute into the second period. His header was directed straight at Brad Jones after a good cross from Matt Hill.

The Owls then nearly shot themselves in the foot as Madjid Bougherra’s weak backpas was pounced upon by veteran striker Danny Dichio. But Brad Jones came rushing from his goal to deny the former Sunderland and West Brom man the opener to the relief of Bougherra.

The Owls already tough task was made even tougher in the 57th minute as Lee Bullen was sent off for a crunching two footed tackle on Matt Hill. Frankie Simek had already made a tough challenge to the displeasure of the home fans before Bullen completely missed the ball and sent Hill sprawling.

After the sending off Owls boss Paul Sturrock opted for a more defensive formation for the final 15 minutes to hold out for an opening day point.

Burton O’Brien had a decent opportunity with ten minutes left on the clock when he ran at the PNE defence but his tired effort went comfortably passed Carlo Nash’s goal.

Steve Maclean, who worked tirelessly throughout the match, was replaced with ten minutes to go and the Owls fans had the opportunity to see new signing Wade Small for the first time. The former MK Dons man slotted straight into Steve Maclean’s lone striker role despite his preferred position being on the right wing.

Owls fans had their hearts in their mouths with just three minutes left when PNE thought they made the breakthrough. Liam Chilvers bundled the ball home from a Danny Pugh cross but the referee had judged Chilvers to push Graham Coughlan inside the box.

Sturrock made totally sure of the point by introducing young midfielder Sean McAllister as some fresh legs to replce the tired Chris Brunt.

Despite another all-too-common 0-0 draw at Deepdale, the Owls fans will be pleased with a point on the opening day, and will be hoping for a similar performance which will hopefully return 3 points on Tuesday night against Luton Town at Hillsborough.

Player Ratings

Jones 8
Only started training with the rest of the squad yesterday and made a good first impression on the Owls fans. Made good saves from Danny Dichio and David Nugent and despite flapping once or twice in the first half, did well on corners and free-kicks. Has a good kick on him and should be a good signing for the club.

Simek 6
Didn’t look at his best today but linked well with the new-look Owls defence.

Hills 7
Passed fit just before the match, Hills started back where he left off. Made some good challenges and dealt well with the tricky Whaley.

Coughlan 7
Had a tough day against Danny Dichio and was probably pleased to see him subbed in the second half. Gave his usual 110% and won a lot of headers to keep the hosts at bay.

Bougherra 7
Apart from THAT mistake in the second half, looked strong, fast and has bagfuls of ability. Hopefully as the weeks go by he’ll be more composed and will be a great asset to the club under Paul Sturrock’s guidence.

Folly 8
The new Owls signing ran tirelessly in the centre of midfield to protect the defence and coped well with Jarrett and McKenna in the centre of the park. The former Southampton man also did well to get forward on a number of occassions and looks to be improving match-on-match.

Whelen 6
Tried hard to impress after being transfer-listed. Worked hard alongside Folly in the centre and made some good challenges. Got in some good positions in the first half but failed to capitalise.

Bullen 6
Did well to fill in in an unfavoured role and got a few good crosses in which gave Brunt a good opportunity on one occasion. Expected to keep his head in situations such as the one that made him see red.

O’Brien 7
Linked up well with Hills down the left-hand side and kept the game flowing. Got in some good positions but his best in the second half saw tired legs take their toll.

Brunt 6
As usual, a frustrating perfomance from Sturrock’s Mr & Mrs Beckham. Definately a Mrs Beckham day today for the Northern Irish international. One or two good opportunities wasted and his work-rate needs improvement – fast.

Maclean 7
As good as you can expect from a striker unused to playing the sole striker role. Held the ball up relatively well and linked the play well. Will benefit from a striker alongside him.

Small 5
Came on to add some fresh legs to a tiring Owls side late in the game so had little time to impress. Looked pacey and almost won a free-kick for the Owls in a dangerous position towards the end.

McAllister 5
Little time to impress.

Paul Sturrock told BBC Sport
‘I was pleased in the circumstances and it would have been an absolute sin if we hadn’t come away with something out of that game.

‘Going down to 10 men is difficult any time but we didn’t let our heads go down, we battled and bit and scratched.

‘I am very pleased and very proud of the players today.’

Paul Simpson told BBC Sport
‘We had two or three very good opportunities and on another day we would have got a few goals out of it.

‘We were little bit nervy and maybe a little bit rusty, but all in all it’s a point on the board for us, hopefully it will settle us down a little bit.

‘We’ve got to keep banging on at the players and make sure they understand what it is that we are after.’