Wednesday 2-0 Preston
31/03/12 - 12.45pm
A brace of Gary Madine goals gave Wednesday a comfortable victory over Preston and kept the pressure on Sheffield United in the race for automatic promotion from League One.
The Owls' top-scorer scored twice in the second half to ease Wednesday to success and put them second in the table for a brief spell at least, with United's slender 1-0 win at Hartlepool United moving them back to second just a few hours later.
All Wednesday can do is continue winning, however, and continue to pile the pressure on Danny Wilson's men as they season draws nearer to its conclusion - and they did exactly that against Graham Westley's men.
Owls boss Dave Jones made just one change to the side that beat Leyton Orient last time out, with on-loan striker Nile Ranger making his debut in attack in place of Chris O'Grady, who dropped to the bench. Miguel Llera continued in defence despite Danny Batth recovering from a hamstring injury.
Wednesday, who were unbeaten since Daves Jones's arrival at the club, started in confident fashion and Jermaine Johnson flashed a powerful long-range drive just wide of Thorsten Stuckmann's goal.
It was a first half deprived of many clear-cut chances in front of goal, and Stephen Bywater was a spectator for much of the half as Wednesday dominated long spells but couldn't turn their possession into a goal.
Reda Johnson almost got lucky with a long-range cross-cum-shot that nearly caught Stuckmann off-guard, but the ball drifted out for a goal kick.
Ranger struggled to get into the game on his full debut in blue and white stripes and Preston were doing a decent job of marking the runs of Michail Antonio and Johnson.
It needed something special, and the Jamaican almost provided just that when he skipped past a few players before launching a dipping shot from the edge of the box that Stuckmann did well to parry to safety.
Chris Lines also drove a shot over the bar in a half that saw a number of decisions from the referee frustrate the players and fans of both sides.
Half-Time: Wednesday 0-0 Preston
Victory for the Owls was a must in the race for the top-two and the hosts came flying out of the traps in the second half, determined to get that all-important opener.
They didn't have to wait long.
Chris Lines fed the ball to Madine on the angle of the edge of the box and Wednesday's top-scorer launched an unstoppable shot into the top corner in front of the Kop.
It was just what the doctor ordered and the Owls grew in confidence, while North End visibly looked sapped of confidence following their efforts to keep the Owls out.
Wednesday cased down every ball in the PNE half to pile the pressure on their visitors. Stuckmann did well to deny another powerful strike from Johnson and Ranger had an appeal for a penalty turned away by the officials.
The visitors offered little in the way of an attacking threat, but a second goal was always going to make things more comfortable for Wednesday.
It came just after the hour mark with Madine doubling his tally for the afternoon. A long throw-in from Antonio found the former Carlisle hitman and he powered his header into the back of the net.
Madine should have completed his hat-trick not long after but he somehow placed a great chance over the bar when he seemed easier to score and then saw a header dip on to the roof of the net.
It was a comfortable afternoon all in all for Dave Jones and his men and the victory keeps the Owls within touching distance of their neighbours in second.
Full-Time: Wednesday 2-0 Preston
Wednesday: Bywater, Buxton, R Jones, Llera, R Johnson, Antonio, Semedo, Lines, J Johnson (Treacy 90), Madine (Lowe 87), Ranger. Substitutes: Weaver, Batth, O'Grady.
Preston: Stuckmann, Robertson, Morgan, Coutts, Parry, Wright, Ehmer, Proctor (Holroyd 85), Cummins (Hume 62), Hunt, Brown (Aneke 62). Substitutes: Arestidou, Gray.