Date: 23rd August 2008 at 6:16pm
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WEDNESDAY were their own worst enemies as they threw three points away with a ‘game of two halves’ performance against unbeaten Preston at Hillsborough on Saturday.

Sean McAllister gave the Owls the advantage after 20 minutes in a first half they dominated, and should have gone in to the interval with more than a one goal cushion.

But, as was far too numerous last season, Wednesday failed to kill their opponents off and they were made to pay with just 13 minutes to go as sloppy defending allowed Preston back in to the game and Richard Chaplow eventually bagged a goal 13 minutes from time to give Alan Irvine’s men a share of the spoils.

Owls fans were given a welcome boost ahead of the clash with the news that Marcus Tudgay was fit and available to return to the starting eleven following injury to partner Deon Burton up front, with Wednesday reverting back to a 4-4-2.

Sean McAllister parntnered James O’Connor in the centre of the Wednesday midfield with Steve Watson dropped to the bench, while new loan signing Tony McMahon was thrown straight in to the starting line-up at right-back following an injury to Richard Hinds last week.

The Owls made a comfortable start, looking to desperately bounce back from the 4-1 thumping dished out by Wolves last week, while the visitors will have been keen to keep their 100 per cent winning start to the season going in Yorkshire.

Brian Laws pointed the finger at jet-heeled winger Jermaine Johnson for one of the goals in last week’s defeat to Wolves, but the Jamaican was more than making up for last week’s error by causing the PNE defence all kinds of problems in attack.

On the other wing, Etienne Esajas was looking equally dangerous, with Wednesday looking to re-capture the form that saw them run out 4-1 winners over fellow Lancastrians Burnley last time at Hillsborough.

And it was the trickery of Johnson and the neat footwork of Marcus Tudgay that carved out the first real chance at either end as the latter breezed by his marker inside the box and flashed an effort just wide of goal when it could have so easily have seen the Owls 1-0 up.

But Wednesday kept the pressure up at the Kop end, the end they were attacking in the first half, and their persistance paid off just four minutes later as McAllister grabbed his first goal of the season to give the Owls the lead.

A long throw-in from Tommy Spurr on the Owls’ left brought confusion within the PNE penalty area and McAllister was on hand to steer the ball in to the back of the empty net with Lonergen stranded.

James O’Connor was working tirelessly in the engine-room alongside Macca, while the pace and trickery of the two Owls wide men, who linked up well with the full-backs, made Wednesday look impressive in the first 45 minutes.

New signing Tony McMahon was also showing signs of why Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate rates him so highly with some good tackling, distribution, and crossing, with one superb cross flashing across the PNE goal with no Wednesday striker getting on the end of it.

And it was McMahon who had to be on hand at the back to save Wednesday’s bacon following a rare mistake from defender Mark Beevers.

Wednesday continued to look the more dangeorus throughout the first half but will have been maybe looking to take more than just a goal advantage in to half-time following their dominance.

Half-Time: Wednesday 1-0 Preston

The phrase ‘a game of two halves’ is used maybe a little too often in football, but the term couldn’t have been more suited to Wednesday’s second half performance which saw them take the foot off the gas and allow Preston back in to the game – not through their own good play, but mainly due to schoolboy errors at the back.

But the Owls did carry on their first half form in to the second 45 for 5 minutes at least and should have doubled their lead when Esajas provided a superb cross which saw Burton head goalwards only to see his effort cleared off the line by a Preston defender.

Calls for handball on the line were waved away by the referee.

But following the effort, Wednesday took their foot off the gas and let their play turn sloppy to give the visitors a route back in to the game.

Preston boss Irvine culd sense the change and introduced Ross Wallace and former Owls’ target Karl Hawley in quick succession, which gave the Deepdale club fresh optimism and saw the game turn in their favour around the hour mark.

The changes saw boyhood Wednesdayite Chris Sedgwick forced a fine save from lee Grant at his near-post, with Preston’s first real effort on goal.

And nerves seemed to be coming out on top of the Wednesday players, with passes going astray and the Owls not being able to control the game with the confidence that allowed them to in the first half.

Beevers made a first-half error which could have cost Wednesday goal, and he and Tommy Spurr weren’t exactly having their best ever games in the blue and white stripes, with the latter in particular mis-timing a numer of headers and letting the visitors in down their right hand side.

One such error allowed Preston in and the Owls were lucky to escape a goal-mouth scramble which saw Sedgwick and Jones both fire goalbound efforts towards goal, which, to the defences credit, saw Wednesday players throw themselves at the ball to avert the danger.

It worked to an extent, but it was to only delay the inevtiable for the visitors as they continued to make in-roads to Lee Grant’s goal.

Former West Brom man Chaplow fired a warning shot as he wrong-footed two Wednesday defenders before flashing a curling effort just inches wide of Grant’s goal to the relief of the Wednesdayites sat in the Kop behind the goal.

Bit Chaplow wasn’t going to miss for a second time as he fired home from just yards out with 13 minutes to go after Sedgwick had taken advantage of a Spurr error to provide a perfect cross for the leveller.

The confidence was with the visitors until the end, with Wednesday reverting to lumping the ball forward from the boot of Grant, with Burton and Tudgay unable to hold the ball up, while taking Johnson off for Smith all-but killed the Owls midfield which had impressed in the first half.

Esajas had the best late chance as he fired a free-kick straight at the North End ‘keeper with five minutes to go as the game ticked over to see both sides share the spoils.

Full-Time: Wednesday 1-1 Preston

Wednesday: Grant, McMahon, Wood, Beevers, Wood, Johnson (Smith 71), O’Connor, McAllister, Esajas, Burton (Clarke 87), Tudgay. Unused substitutes: O’Donnell, Gilbert, Watson.

Preston: Lonergan, Mawene, St Ledger, Chaplow, Hill, Nicholson (Wallace 56), McKenna, Whaley (Hawley 60), Sedgwick, Jones, Mellor. Unused substitutes: Neal, Hart, Carter.