Wednesday 1-2 Preston
21/10/09 - 7.45pm
SHEFFIELD-born Neil Mellor and former Barnsley man Jon Parkin hit the Preston goals as Wednesday slipped to their second home defeat of the season at a cold Hillsborough on Tuesday night.
Wednesday will have felt they should have taken a lead into the half-time interval after grabbing just one goal, to level Mellor's opener, despite creating chances throughout the first 45 minutes.
Gray did level with a superb effort, but Parkin netted what turned out to be the winner ten minutes after the resumption to see the Deepdale club take all three points back over the Pennines.
It was a case of the same again in terms of line-up for Wednesday, as Laws stuck with the same eleven that defeated Coventry City 2-0 on Saturday, with Marcus Tudgay, Richard Wood and Etienne Esajas still not fully match fit.
Preston arrived at S6 desperate to bounce back from their 4-0 drubbing at Q.P.R. on Saturday though, but were under the cosh almost immediately as Lewis Buxton forced PNE stopper Andy Lonergan into early action in front of a 20,000-plus crowd.
It was the first of numerous Owls chances that the PNE stopper had to deal with in the early exchanges as the lively Jermaine Johnson saw a header bounce over the bar and Leon Clarke came close when he got on the end of a Spurr cross.
Preston struggled to get out of their own half in the opening exchanges, but when they did, they made Wednesday pay, and that was the difference on the night.
Mellor's glancing header from a cross was deflected by Purse and Lee Grant had no choice but to pick the ball out of the back of the net as Alan Irvine's men broke the deadlock very much against the run of play.
It was typical of Wednesday's season, and it was to be typical of another night to forget at S6.
It was perhaps a sign of things to come then when Johnson saw not one, but two efforts come back off the post in the same move.
The Jamaican winger unleashed a powerful effort which beat Lonergan but not the post, and then he lashed the rebound back on to the same post and to safety as the Preston goal led a charmed life with Wednesday pushing for an equaliser.
But the hosts did manage the leveller before half-time as Clarke was felled outside the box and Gray stepped up to launch a superb free-kick into the back of the net.
Purse could well have given Wednesday the advantage going into half-time but his effort came back, unsurprisingly, off the woodwork just a minute before the interval.
Wednesday ended a positive first half well, but they failed to show the same attacking form in the second half as Preston dug deep to leave with the points.
The winner came just ten minutes after the resumption as Mellor turned goalscorer to provider when he broke free down the left and give Parkin an easy effort to restore Preston's lead.
The same flair from the Wednesday attack failed to materialise in a poor second half showing as the visitors comfortably dealt with most of what the Owls had to throw at them, although Luke Varney did see an effort deflected wide.
PNE looked to sit back on their lead as the 90th minute approached, with Wednesday growing more and more frustrated with the stubborn Preston defence, which held firm and diverted a late Johnson effort off the line to become the second team to win at Hillsborough this season and leave boss Brian Laws a big job of lifting his troops before Friday's trip to Watford.
Full-Time: Wednesday 1-2 Preston