Wednesday will bring 2011 to a close with a trip across the Pennines to take on Preston North End at Deepdale on New Year’s Eve.
The Owls have let victories slip away late on in their last two matches, something which has seen them drop out of the npower League One automatic promotion spots, and will be keen to finish the year with three points against the Lilywhites.
North End have Graham Alexander and David Unsworth currently in caretaker charge following the dismissal of Phil Brown and the duo have guided Preston to four points from their two games in charge.
Owls manager Gary Megson told the official SWFC website:
‘Preston have some players who have played at a higher level and they got a great result at MK Dons and they’ll be disappointed not to have beaten Carlisle but I’m more interested in what we do.
‘After the Preston game we are into the second half of the season where we will play more games at home and there’s only ourselves and Charlton in the top six who are in that position.’
Preston North End Team News:
There will be no reunion for Owls fans and last season’s top scorer Neil Mellor, with the striker sidelined for up to six weeks for the Lilywhites.
Mellor, a Liverpool Academy product, will have been desperate to face the side he spent the whole of last season with but a knee injury suffered in North End’s 1-0 win at MK Dons will see him sidelined for some time.
Preston will, however, be boosted with the return from suspension of Steven Smith. The Scottish defender was banned for the 3-3 draw with Carlisle United last time out and he could return to add steel to the PNE back-line.
North End have another former Owl on their books in the shape of goalkeeper Iain Turner, but he’s likely to be on the substitutes bench, while on-loan defender Jamie McCombe, of Huddersfield Town, is a lifelong Owls fan.
Player to watch: Iain Hume
The former Leicester City and Barnsley hitman has been linked with a move to Hillsborough in January, something Owls boss Gary Megson has since played down, but his pace and power will be a big threat to the Owls’ defence.
Wednesday Team News:
Wednesday could be without skipper Rob Jones with a back injury. The centre-back was forced off early with the injury in the 2-1 loss at Walsall on Boxing Day and is a big doubt for the trip to Deepdale.
On-loan Spanish defender Miguel Llera, on a one-month deal from Blackpool, could step-in to play alongside Danny Batth in the heart of the Wednesday back four.
Nicky Weaver isn’t expected to be ready for a return in goal, meaning Richard O’Donnell is set to get another chance in between the sticks.
Lewis Buxton and Gary Madine are both nearing a return to action but the North End clash will come too soon for them.
Player to watch: Ryan Lowe
Lowe has been the man finding the back of the net most often in top-scorer Gary Madine’s absence, and he’ll be called upon to find the back of the net again in Lancashire.
Match Facts & Stats
PNE wins: 40
Wednesday wins: 37
Last Time Out:
Preston 2-2 Wednesday
The Owls found themselves 2-0 down last time the sides met, thanks to goals from Neil Mellor and Paul Coutts for the hosts. But two goals in three second-half minutes, from Tommy Miller and Marcus Tudgay, rescued a point for the visitors.
v Tranmere Rovers (H) – 2/1/12