Match Preview: Sheffield Wednesday vs. Preston North End


Preston North End go into Saturday’s clash with Sheffield Wednesday looking to record their eighth away win of the season – the joint-most of any Championship side. That statistic underlines just how impressive Alex Neil’s men have been on the road this season.

The 1-0 win over Birmingham City at St. Andrew’s last week required plenty of hard work and determination, particularly in the first half. It felt as though every long pass seemed to bounce the length of the 18-yard box. But it needed a moment of quality as well, which was duly provided by Scott Sinclair after an excellent run and layoff from Jayson Molumby.

Sunday’s televised clash with Reading was a similar sort of story throughout the 90 minutes, with neither side possessing that finishing touch. However, it was one of those afternoons where both sides could be reasonably content with a point apiece.

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One of the main angles for debate was the penalty awarded to Reading late on – there seemed to be some confusion initially, but replays and images like the one below showed that it was clear cut in the end and the officials had no other option but to point to the spot.

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That North End came out of the game with a clean sheet, largely thanks to the efforts of Daniel Iversen between the sticks, will give them plenty of confidence going into the match against a Sheffield Wednesday. Despite sitting in 23rd place in the table, they have found form in recent weeks under caretaker manager Neil Thompson and will be a test for us.

There doesn’t seem any immediate plan for the Owls to unveil a new permanent manager, after sacking Tony Pulis on December 28, so Thompson is set to still be in the post when North End travel up to Hillsborough on Saturday.

The 57-year-old has made an immediate impact since taking over, guiding Wednesday to consecutive league wins for the first time this season, as well as a victory over Exeter City in the third round of the FA Cup.

That was followed by a trip to Premier League Everton on Sunday, in which a young Owls team put in a solid display.

The reverse fixture between PNE and Wednesday back in November saw Alex Neil’s men emerge victorious for the first time this season at home. The game was notable for Josh Windass’s first-half red card for a high boot on Joe Rafferty.

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Potential Dangers

The main player to watch out for on Saturday is midfielder Barry Bannan.

Having signed for the club in 2015, Bannan dictates play for the Owls and has established himself as one of the second tier’s leading creative midfielders.

He has been as influential as ever this season, despite his side’s poor form, and has two goals and four assists from 23 starts in the league. Bannan has a wand of a left foot and is a particular threat due to his corner and free-kick taking ability.

The second Wednesday player to watch out for is fellow Scottish international Callum Paterson.

The 26-year-old was signed by the Owls in the summer from Cardiff City, and can play almost anywhere across the pitch, having featured at right-back, centre-back, right midfield, centre midfield and striker during his time in English football.

Despite being handed the number 5 shirt, it is in attacking areas where Paterson has found himself most at home in the Wednesday ranks, going into the game against PNE as the side’s leading scorer with four goals. The Scot is in potent form currently, with three strikes in his last four games, including goals in home wins over Middlesbrough and Derby.

Another name for North End to watch out for is Adam Reach.

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North End fans will be no stranger to Wednesday’s number 11, with Reach having spent the season on loan at Deepdale in 2015/16. He made a good impression with his determination and creative abilities, as well as performing solidly at left wing-back on several occasions away from home.

He is less fondly remembered for the stoppage-time equaliser he scored for the Owls at Deepdale in 2017 – not a moment I ever particularly enjoy bringing up especially given that North End dominated the game for large periods. Reach is another player in good goalscoring touch for Wednesday under Neil Thompson, having scored two in his last four appearances in all competitions.

Opposition View

For this week’s opposition view, we have Ed, the person behind @opinionofanowl.

From a Wednesday standpoint, the season so far has been fairly disastrous. The 12 point deduction, despite being reduced to 6, given to us by the EFL set the tone for a season of disappointment after disappointment – culminating in a real threat of the third tier. 

The merry-go-round of managers at S6 over the past three or four years has continued, with Tony Pulis not even making it to his two month anniversary at Hillsborough.

In fact, if memory serves me correct (I’ve already tried to wipe this season from my mind), Pulis’ first game in charge was at Deepdale and, in true Wednesday fashion, was marred by a red card for Josh Windass. At the time, I remember discarding that game as one of those ‘you can’t judge Pulis off of that’ sort of games… turns out we could. 

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What is most concerning of all though, is the off the field issues shrouding the club. Chansiri has had two advisors this season, each arguing for different things. A classic example would be with the recent manager search. According to Alan Nixon, who’s usually spot on when it comes to Wednesday, Eric Alonso (Chansiri’s most recent addition) was a keen admirer of Paul Cook. Yet, as so often the case, Amadeu Paixao seems to have kept control of the mind of Chansiri – leading to a classic Wednesday ‘twitter meltdown’ when Alonso resigned after the 2-0 loss to Coventry City due to ‘irreconcilable differences’ and a threat of his ‘reputation being affected’ –  not quite what you want to hear!

What’s even worse is that Chris Coleman is reportedly a target for Paixao. What’s that phrase? When it rains, it pours…

On the pitch, it’s equally as bleak. Our best player last season, Dominic Iorfa, sustained a season-ending Achilles injury earlier in the campaign, we are a team devoid of any confidence, and we don’t seem to know where the back of the net is.

New additions Andre Green and Sam Hutchinson (having only released him at the end of last season – but that’s a whole different story) brought an ounce of positivity before that horrendous showing at St. Andrew’s against Coventry City more than popped that bubble.

For me, a glimmer of hope is being linked to Crewe Alexandra left-back Harry Pickering, by all accounts the EFL’s answer to Andy Robertson. Yet with Blackburn Rovers also very keen, I think we can write that one off too. 

In terms of the lineup on Saturday, it’s hard to predict.

We tried Windass as a lone striker in midweek, and it wasn’t successful. Whilst Callum Paterson has been finding the net, the rest of his game still leaves a lot to be desired. Green showed glimpses of promise, and I think it would be harsh to drop him. All Owls’ fans are hopeful to see a return for Massimo Luongo whose season has been disrupted by injuries, has mirrored our campaign on the whole. 

For me, I’d revert to a 3-5-2: Westwood; Lees, Hutchinson, Borner; Reach, Bannan, Luongo, Pelupessy, Harris; Green, Windass.

I think it’s worth noting that before the meltdown after the 2-0 loss midweek, Wednesday fans were starting to gain a little optimism – we mustn’t forget that we were unbeaten in four in the league.

All we want as a fanbase is to see a reaction against North End – and under Neil Thompson, I think that could happen.

However, with the quality that you possess in your side now after additions such as Ben Whiteman, I struggle to envisage Wednesday gaining all three points. Neither of us are particularly high scorers and, for that reason, I’m going to go for a 1-1 draw.

Would I take the point? Maybe. Do we need more? Most definitely. 

All the best to North End for the rest of the season (except on Saturday, of course!) and keep up the top content on From the Finney.


This is a hard one to call, not least because of Sheffield Wednesday’s recent improvement in league form.

They have won each of their last three games at home, including a victory against top half sides in Middlesbrough and Barnsley. However, the Owls have struggled for goals all season, with the Boro clash representing the first time they have scored two goals in a league game since September.

The form book points to this one being a relatively close encounter in terms of the scoreline. North End’s recent defensive record is excellent of late having kept five clean sheets in their last seven games. The goals at the other end haven’t been flowing as much as in the early parts of the season, but if you carry on keeping clean sheets, you’re always going to have the chance to win football matches.

In the main, that’s what we have been doing in recent weeks. I’m backing Alex Neil’s side to take home the three points on Saturday with a 2-0 victory.

In terms of team selection, the big question mark will be over who plays at left back, given that Andrew Hughes was forced to pull out of the starting XI due to an aggravated shoulder injury, and was replaced by Joe Rafferty.

If Hughes is passed fit to take on Wednesday, I imagine PNE will look to bring him back into the side. However, there is the recent return of Greg Cunningham to consider. He’s also only recently returned from but with Darnell Fisher joining Middlesbrough and Josh Earl expected to be leaving on loan in, if Hughes isn’t fit, it could be a toss-up between Rafferty and Greg Cunningham for the left back position.

In more forward areas, Tom Barkhuizen will be pushing for a return to the XI, whilst I predict that Emil Riis will start his third consecutive Championship game upfront.

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My predicted XI is: Iversen; Browne, Huntington, Davies, Hughes; Whiteman, Ledson, Molumby; Barkhuizen, Sinclair; Riis.

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