Wednesday 2-0 PNE
18/03/06 - 15:00
So often the Owls have dominated games and come away with nothing, but this time the table's turned and Wednesday got all three points against high flying Preston North End.
Deon Burton struck his second goal in as many games against the run of play, and then a quick throw-in saw Burton O'Brien break free and lob Carlo Nash in the PNE goal to make it 2-0.
Owls boss Paul Sturrock kept with the same formation which performed so well against QPR last week. Lee Bullen was replaced by Frankie Simek at right wing-back.
Loanees Mikkel Bischoff and Scott Carson kept their places in the side, while Steven Maclean featured on the bench after recovering from a toe injury.
Sturrock decided on sticking with the same strike partnership of Deon Burton and Marcus Tudgay in the hope that the pair would again work well together in attack.
Preston boss Billy Davis was forced to make a change after recieving the news that top scorer David Nugent will miss the rest of the season. Danny Dichio, Brett Ormerod, and Patrick Agyemang started up front.
Former Owls target Simon Whaley featured on the bench for the visitors and was to later get a run out on the right of midfield.
Both sides were as desperate for points as the other - but for very different reasons. The Owls knew they needed breathing space from Millwall while North End needed the points to help consolidate their play-off position.
Wednesday created the first chance of the match when Burton linked well with Tudgay in attack. The former Rotherham man picked out Tudgay's run, and his effort was deflected wide for the first corner of the match.
After that, Preston decided to up their gear and take the game to the hosts. The whites had only lost one game in 26, and it was clear to see why as they dominated proceedings for the next half an hour - creating corner after corner. Despite their dominance, on-loan 'keeper Scott Carson was a spectator in the Owls goal.
Patrick Agyemang was sent racing towards the Wednesday goal minutes later and his ball nearly found the feet of former Southampton striker Brett Ormerod. Graham Coughlan recovered well though and cleared the danger.
Preston's luck didn't get any better after losing Nugent midweek, as strike partner Danny Dichio was forced off after just 22 minutes. The former Sunderland and WBA man was replaced by Simon Whaley - who the Owls were chasing last year while at Bury.
North End's best opportunity of the game came just after the hour mark when Ormarod had the chance to take a shot at the Wednesday goal, but instead opted to take another chance and gave Frank Simek the chance to clear the danger once again.
Wednesday took the lead against the run of play through former Rotherham man Deon Burton. Chris Brunt swung in a dangerous corner from the left-hand side and Marcus Tudgay directed the ball towards the head of Burton, who deflected it in to the back of Carlo Nash's goal to make it 1-0.
The goal gave Wednesday the confidence bost they needed and they nearly doubled their lead through Burton just minutes later. A powerful free-kick from Glenn Whelen was smothered by Nash, and Burton was hand to tap in the rebound, but it somehow crept round the post for a corner.
Wednesday broke free again just before half time when Chris Brunt provided an inch perfect cross to find the unmarked Marcus Tudgay at the edge of the PNE box. It seemed like the former Derby man had enough time to control it and take a touch before shooting, but instead he opted for a first team header which drew a decent save from Nash.
Wednesday went in to the half-time break the happier of the two sides, despite having to soak up some heavy pressure from PNE. They knew a 1-0 wasn't going to be enough.
Paul Sturrock must have been delighted with his side's response early in the second half, and was rewarded with a goal after 51 minutes when a quick throw-in from Tudgay spotted Burton O'Brien free. O'Brien lifted the ball over Nash, who was out in no man's land - to make it 2-0.
On 57 minutes PNE were looking for any chance they could create, but Whaley could have been booked in the 57th minute for diving under a challenge from Bischoff. The referee waved away the protests, and the former Bury man was lucky not to see a card.
PNE hadn't given in though, and with 20 minutes on the clock they should have made it 2-1. Mears went on a surging run down the right-hand side and produced a good cross for Brian O'Neil, who's shot was sent wide form inside the box.
Late in the match the PNE fans were bemused by some decisions from the referee which saw a number of North End players booked, but in truth it was a deserved victory for the Owls, who had to soak up pressure but did it well and made PNE pay at the other end of the field.
A vital three points for the Owls, and one which seems them stretch the gap from Millwall to fibe points, after other results went in the Owls favour. PNE showed why they were chasing for the play-offs, but Wednesday soaked up the pressure well without having too many scares, and found the net twice at the other end of the pitch.
The former Derby man was so close to the honour of Star Player last week, and this week he wins it by a stretch.
Not only did he bag his second goal in as many games for the Owls, but he held the ball up well, distributed it well, and worked his socks off for 90 minutes. Forming a great partnership with Tudgay which could see Maclean on the bench longer than he may have expected.
Paul Sturrock told BBC Sport:
'I had a rant at them at half-time and they did all the things I asked and we came out with the result.
'To be fair, they took the criticism at half-time. They won their headers and cleared their lines.'
Billy Davies told BBC Sport:
'We had far too many players who didn't turn up or performed badly and we've had a bad day at the office.
'We've not created enough chances, although we've had lots of possession. Credit where credit's due but we get no credit today.'