Match report: PNE 1 Sheffield Wednesday 1

Preston North End suffered a heatbreaking end to 2016 as a late Sheffield Wednesday equaliser robbed them of what would have been a deserved victory at Deepdale.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 31st December 2016, 5:05 pm
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 1:00 pm
PNE v Sheffield Wednesday
PNE v Sheffield Wednesday

The Lilywhites had taken the lead in the 77th minute, Greg Cunningham's cross deflecting into the net off Owls midfielder Sam Hutchinson.

Their pressure had finally paid off after they had bossed much of the game and they looked set for the three points.

But with the four minutes of stoppage-time almost up, former North End loanee Adam Reach fired Wednesday's equaliser with their only shot on target after the ball had pinged around the PNE box in the contest's last attack.

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The performance was a big improvement on the Boxing Day defeat to Leeds, the return of Paul Gallagher and Aiden McGeady key.

Simon Grayson had made two changes, Gallagher and McGeady returning to the side at the expense of Marnick Vermijl and Alan Browne who dropped to the bench.

Jermaine Beckford started a four-game suspension while Bailey Wright was not included in the squad as speculation over his PNE future continued.

Before kick-off, a minute's silence - impeccably observed - was held to remember past players and Preston supporters who had passed away in 2016.

Playing in a 4-4-2 system, North End bossed the first half and limited Wednesday to one wayward effort off target.

Gallagher was influential on the right hand side, seeing plenty of the ball with a lot of the play going through him.

In the 10th minute, Gallagher chased McGeady's ball over the top of the visitors' back four but couldn't reach it before it went out of play.

Sixty seconds later, Robinson's shot on the turn from 25 yards was pushed past the post by Wednesday keeper Keiran Westwood.

Simon Makienok got his angles all wrong when meeting a left-wing cross from Robinson, planting a header wide of the near post.

Just past the half hour mark, Gallagher's angled shot from the edge of the box caught a deflection and forced Westwood into a diving save at the far post, albeit a comfortable one.

As half-time approached, Wallace sliced a shot from distance high, wide and not very handsome, that the sum total of the Owls' forward play in the first 45 minutes.

Five minutes into the second half, Daniel Johnson's chipped cross to the far post was headed down by Tom Clarke into the path of Alex Baptiste who volleyed inches too high.

Robinson and McGeady linked-up well in the 54th minute, McGeady trying his luck with a shot from a tight angle which slammed into the side-netting.

North End almost made the breakthrough when a McGeady cross from the left was palmed out from under the bar by Westwood, the ball falling to Gallagher who's goalbound shot was blocked by a defender at the expense of a corner.

After an hour, Makienok had the ball in the net but the whistle had gone for a foul on the keeper by Paul Huntington - that was Makienok's last involvement, with him replaced by Jordan Hugill.

An offside flag chalked off a Robinson shot which had flown into the net, Hugill the man who had strayed when nodding down a cross to create the chance.

Hutchinson and then Ben Pearson were booked in quick succession - the yellow card Pearson's ninth of the campaign - before North End broke the stalemate in the 77th minute.

It came via a great piece of play from McGeady who threaded a fine pass behind the Wednesday back line to release Cunningham down the left hand side of the box.

Cunningham got close to the byline and pulled the ball into the middle, it hitting Hutchinson at the near post and looping into the net.

Five minutes later, McGeady curling right-foot shot from 25 yards came back off the foot of the post.

It looked like North End had done enough to hold out for the three points but with four minutes of stoppage-time almost played, an almighty scramble in the box ended with Reach - who spent much of last season on loan from Middlesbrough - blasting a right-foot shot into the net from just inside the box.

PNE: Maxwell, Baptiste, Clarke, Huntington, Cunningham, Pearson, McGeady (Browne 89), Gallagher, Johnson, Robinson (Spurr 86), Makienok (Hugill 60). Subs (not used): Vermijl, Doyle, Pringle, Lindegaard.

Wednesday: Westwood, Palmer (Hunt 62), Loovens, Lees, Pudil, Wallace (Joao 80), Hutchinson, Bannan, Reach, Fletcher, Nuhiu (Jones 46). Subs (not used: Sougou, Sasso, Hirst, Wildsmith.

Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northampshire)

Attendance: 14,802 (4,408 away)