WEDNESDAY remain without a win in 2007 as three defensive errors gave high-flying Preston all three points in a disappointing match at Hillsborough.
Deon Burton got a re-call to the side and rewarded boss Brian Laws immediately as he netted after just four minutes. But the Owls could only hold on the lead for a matter of minutes as Brett Ormerod netted an instant reply before two goals either side of half-time from David Nugent wrapped up the points for Paul Simpson’s men.
Young defender Mark Beevers got his first start on home soil after Richard Wood and Graham Coughlan both failed late fitness tests while Deon Burton was recalled to the attack alongside Marcus Tudgay in place of the in-form Steve Maclean.
Hillsborough has now seen the most goals in the Championship this season with 51 – and it was no surprise as a frantic start saw Burton reward his manager’s confidence in him by giving the Owls the early advatange with a low shot from the edge of the box on just four minutes.
But Wednesday’s defensive frailties took just a matter of minutes to show as a defensive error from Beevers allowed North End to race through on goal before former Southampton hitman Brett Ormerod levelled the scores from close range.
The Owls looked like a side low on confidence and they could have found themselves behind minutes later as former Bolton and Middlesbrough striker Michael Ricketts rattled the crossbar from yards out following a dangeorous Danny Pugh cross.
But although the Lilywhites were enjoying the best of the possession Wednesday were still causing problems at the other end with a number of dangerous corner kicks from Chris Brunt which went flying across the face of goal while Wade Small also broke free to launch another dangerous cross in to the box but neither Burton or Tudgay were positioned to slow home.
Wednesday’s best chance to regain the lead came as some enat work on the edge of the Preston box allowed Marcus Tudgay to plant a looping header which seemed destined for the back of the net only for Andy Lonergan to stretch and tip his effort over the bar.
Despite the efforts of the hosts it was Preston who looked the more likely to take advantage of Wednesday’s defensive frailties and did so just seconds before the break as a poor goal-kick by Crossley put Frank Simek in trouble on the right and allowed Nugent to break free before slotting the ball low by Crossley and send the travelling North End fans in to raptures.
Half-Time: Wednesday 1-2 PNE
Owls boss Brian Laws decided on making no changes despite a lacklustre first-half by his side – and the inclusion of three strikers and a midfielder on the bench.
But he was forced to change his hand just ten minutes after the restart as yet another error, this time from Kenny Lunt, allowed Danny Pugh to break free on the left before supplying Nugent with his second of the match from close-range.
Despite conceding three goals against Sunderland in the last home match, Wednesday still rallied and almost got a share of the spoils with two-late goals – but North End weren’t going to give up their advantage easily as Mark Beevers came close with a scrappy effort from a corner while Chris Brunt also came whiskers away with a free-kick.
Laws brought Yoanny Folly and Leon Clarke on for the disappointing Kenny Lunt and Wade Small in a bit to change the game but, if anything, the changes killed the match and North End looked confident of protecting their lead despite Wednesday having the bulk of the possession late-on.
Steve Maclean also joined the attack in the latter stages and Deon Burton also forced a superb save from Lonergan with a rifled shot from close-range while Lee Bullen saw his header from the resulting corner hacked off the line from the stubborn visitors’ defence.
But a chorus of booing rang round Hillsborough for the first time since Brian Laws’ appointment at the Hillsborough helm – and the former Scunthorpe gaffer will face his toughest task yet at the reigns with his honeymoon period at the club well and truly over.
Full-Time: Wednesday 1-3 PNE
Wednesday: Crossley, Bullen, Simek, Beevers, Spurr, Lunt (Folly 57), Whelan, Brunt, Small (MacLean 77), Tudgay (Clarke 57), Burton. Subs Not Used: Adamson, Graham. Booked: Clarke.
PNE: Lonergan, Alexander, Chilvers, Hill, Wilson, Pugh, Sedgwick, McKenna, Ricketts (Whaley 71), Nugent, Ormerod. Subs Not Used: Henderson, Agyemang, St. Ledger, Lewis Neal.
Brian Laws told BBC Sport:
“I thought it was a cracking start. We went 1-0 up at home but then we really let ourselves down with the equaliser.
“All three goals were down to Sheffield Wednesday and that is what is most disappointing.
“It just wasn’t good enough, we shot ourselves in the foot. I would absolutely die for a clean sheet.”
Paul Simpson told BBC Sport:
“It’s still very early days. We have had a result where we haven’t played that well.
“We have had to scrap and work for the result but that’s all that teams at this stage of the season can do because it’s all about getting three points.
“We have got ourselves in a position to challenge and I think it’s going to go right to the end of the season.”