Date: 16th September 2007 at 1:31pm
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Paul Gallagher’s first half strike was enough to give Preston their first victory of the season and condemn Wednesday to the worst start to a season in their history at Deepdale on Saturday.

Both sides were desperate for their first three points of the season going in to the clash but it was Paul Simpson’s men who leapt up the table with the win, while the Owls remain the only side in English football still to bag a point.

Owls boss Brian Laws made a number of changes to the side that lost to Bristol City last time out with both Marcus Tudgay and Deon Burton being replaced by Francis Jeffers and Akpo Sodje respectively in attack.

New-boy Etienne Esajas also got his first start since making the move to Hillsborough in place of Burton O’Brien while Jermaine Johnson dropped to the bench to be replaced by the returning Wade Small on the right wing.

Lee Grant also returned to take the number one jersey from Rob Burch while Frenchman Yoann Folly made his first start of the season alongside Glenn Whelan in the centre of the Wednesday midfield.

But although the Owls were keen to get back to action following the two-week international break, it was Preston who came out of the traps the quickest and looked the more likely to open the scoring in the opening stages of the match.

Former Leeds United man Kevin Nicholls could, and probably should, have opened the scoring just minutes after the kick-off as fine link-up play between Blackburn Rovers loanee Paul Gallagher and tricky forward Patrick Agyemang forced a somewhat fortunate opening for the midfielder to force a superb save from Grant from close range.

The early chance had lifted the Lilywhites fans, it what looked a sparse Deepdale, and more chances fell to Agyemang as he headed wide from an Andy Carroll cross while Carroll went from provider to potential goalscorer as he headed in to the hands of the busy Grant.

But Wednesday started to find their way back in to it, mainly through the lively Esajas who impressed in his debut against Bristol City and continued to provide the biggest threat for the Owls in Lancashire.

The Dutchman’s trickery almost put in the awaiting Jeffers before a dangerous cross gave fellow new-signing Sodje a half chance on goal.

But where Esajas looked lively, his fellow team-mates were showing just why the Owls were propping up the rest of the Championships with sloppy passing, poor positioning and a lack of creativity throughout the pitch.

And although the hosts were failing to find the form that saw them do so well last season, they always looked the more likely to open the scoring and they did so just before the hour mark through Gallagher.

Owls fans and management alike were appealing for a foul on Jeffers from Youl Mawene just outside the Preston box as the hosts broke for the opener, but it looked more like the former Everton and Arsenal man slipped on the turn and allowed Preston possession.

And Wednesday looked weak in defence as Simpson’s men flocked forward, with Agyemang and Caroll both going close before Gallagher steamed in from the right to net from point blank range to the delight of the majority inside Deepdale.

But Wednesday kept plugging away, and if anything, the goal gave the Owls a more attacking prescence.

But if the referee was already on the wrong side of the travelling Wednesday fans, he did himself no favours as Jeffers once again looked to have been felled, this time a penalty looked the more likely option, after Liam Chilvers looked to have tugged him down inside the box.

But the hosts held on to take the advantage in to the interval.

Half-Time: Preston 1-0 Wednesday

Laws was sure to have had stern words with his charges at the break and the seemed to have worked when the travelling Wednesday faithful behind Andy Lonergan’s goal were all but cheering the equaliser minutes after the restart.

Some fine work from Glenn Whelan put Esajas in on the left and his neat footwork gave him the time to launch a powerful shot over the Preston stopper which came back off the inside of the box to the frustration of the dutchman.

And Steve Watson also had an early chance to level matters but his long-range effort was comfortably held by Lonergan.

But although Wednesday had made the better start to the second 45 they could have well found themselves two goals down within minutes but for Lee Grant who made another superb save to deny Carroll’s header on 52 minutes.

And then came a spell which should have seen Wednesday draw level on two occassions, but it wasn’t to be.

First, Wade Small sent Whelan through on goal but the former Republic of Ireland under-21 international rushed his shot first time when he could have had at least a touch and the Preston stopper again made a more the comfortable save to deny the youngster.

And moments later Jeffers had the chance to bag his first goal in the blue and white of Wednesday since making his move from Blackburn as he broke the offside trap and raced through on goal before seeing his effort stopped once again by the in-form Lonergan.

The Owls’ ‘fox in the box’ was expected to start on the bench following an injury, and it looked as though that would have been the correct decision by Laws after Jeffers limped off as a result of his charge through on goal to be replaced by Burton.

The former Rotherham man instantly settled in to the team and started linking the play well for Wednesday as they looked for a way back in to the game.

And with just over ten minutes remaining the Owls substitute somehow forced his way in to the Preston box with some neat footwork bt was blocked by the stubborn defence which croweded the Owls hitman out in front of goal.

Wade Small had another shout for a penalty but the referee adjudged the foul to be on the edge of the box before the former MK Dons man was replaced by Jermaine Johnson as Laws looked for fresh bodies in attack.

But the Lancashire club held firm, despite the fourth official indicating five minutes of added time, to secure their first win of the season and condemn the Owls to more woe.

Wednesday: Grant; Simek, Wood, Watson (c), Spurr; Small (Johnson 70), Whelan, Folly, Esajas (Hinds 90); Sodje, Jeffers (Burton 60). Subs not used: Burch, Lunt.

Preston: Lonergan; Chilvers, Davidson, Mawene, Sedgewick (Pugh 83), Gallagher (Whaley 55), Carter, Jones, Nicholls (c), Agyemang, Carroll. Subs not used: Neal, Ormerod, Mellor.