Date: 16th March 2010 at 10:52pm
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SECOND-half strikes from Tommy Miller and Marcus Tudgay rescued a point for a battling Wednesday as boss Alan Irvine made a first return to his former club in an entertaining stalemate.

The duo netted in the space of three second-half minutes to see the Owls bounce back from a Neil Mellor opener and Paul Coutts effort which gave the hosts a 2-0 cushion just after the break.

It’s a point which lifts Wednesday further up the Championship table after Crystal Palace fell to defeat against Leicester City at Selhurst Park.

And it was a happy return for Irvine, who was sacked from his role at Deepdale just before Christmas only to take the Owls job just a month later.

Irvine made just the one change to the side that drew 0-0 at Swansea City on Saturday with Tudgay returning to the starting eleven and Leon Clarke dropping to the bench, despite some fine performances of late from the big man.

Francis Jeffers was also included in the squad at the expense of Etienne Esajas.

Wednesday were keen to build on their recent good results and performances in Lancashire and they were comfortable in the opening exchanges despite an early effort from Coutts.

The visitors were dealt a blow less than ten minutes in though as winger Jermaine Johnson was taken off with what looked like a recurrence of a hamstring injury, loanee Tom Soares taking his place.

The Owls started to up their gear and started to have the better of the chances with Tudgay firing wide and Varney also forcing PNE stopper Andy Lonergan with a good header from an Eddie Nolan cross.

The game was opening up and Manchester United loanee Matthew James saw his effort skim the woodwork before Lee Grant had to be alert to deny Billy Jones with a fine reaction save.

In the end-to-end encounter it was Wednesday who created the best chance of the match when Tudgay saw his effort well blocked by Lonergan as the Owls produced the move of the match.

But, in typical fashion, North End broke the deadlock through Sheffield-born Mellor as the half-hour mark approached.

Jones cut the ball back from the byline to give Mellor a comfortable finish, acted quickest to drill the ball by Grant for the opener.

The lead could have been doubled as Mellor saw his effort well saved by on-song Grant as the Lilywhites looked to take control of the clash and Wednesday were on the ropes.

The Owls survived until the resumption though and could take a lot from the first-half showing, despite trailing at the break.

Half-Time: PNE 1-0 Wednesday

The second goal was going to be crucial and the Owls suffered a sucker-punch less than ten minutes after the restart as Darren Ferguson’s men doubled their advantage.

The Wednesday defence should have done better to stop Coutts powering through on goal before he fired a low shot into the back of the net to see North End almost home and dry, so it seemed.

Wednesday had to find some battling qualities that have been distinctly lacking for most of what’s been a poor season so far.

And although they did just that, they were helped with a slice of fortune which may just prove that the tide is turning as the Owls battle against the drop.

Tommy Miller – so impressive since returning from injury and having his first proper run in the side – powered towards goal and unleashed a shot which Lonergan could only spill into the net to give the visitors a lifeline.

It was Miller’s first goal for the club since his summer move from Ipswich Town and it came at just the right time.

The goal lifted the visitors and a leveller came just minutes later.

Soares was given time and space on the ball in the middle of the park and he produced a pin-point pass for Tudgay to latch on to and drill home his first goal in ten games to level the scores.

Wednesday had the momentum and Irvine introduced Clarke fresh from the bench to try and grab the winner in dramatic fashion and turn the game on its head.

Both sides did carve out further half chances to win the game, but it was a double effort from Clarke which came closest, Lonergan twice denying the powerful forward.

For Wednesday, it will be a good point to build on going into two crucial home matches in the space of four days.

Full-Time: PNE 2-2 Wednesday