Dave Seddon's verdict: Preston 1 Sheffield Wednesday 0 - victory was all that mattered as the Deepdale win drought ends

The manner in which Preston North End achieved their first league win at Deepdale this season was never going to matter, the important thing was just to get it over the line.

By Dave Seddon
Sunday, 22nd November 2020, 7:00 am

Saturday’s victory over Sheffield Wednesday and the previous Championship success on home turf against Birmingham City came 126 days apart.

Not winning at home was a statistic which was weighing them down, North End having to rely on strong away form to prop up their campaign.

With that burden now lifted off their backs, the next step is to make sure this was not just a one-off.

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Tom Barkhuizen turns to celebrate scoring Preston North End's winner against Sheffield Wednesday, watched by a delighted Paul Gallagher

The result and what it meant aside, this was not a game which will live long in the memory.

A piece of quality from Tom Barkhuizen settled it, a fine finish from just inside the box which was the only shot on target from either side.

Preceding his 48th minute goal had been a drab first half, the highlight of which was a red card for Wednesday front man Josh Windass.

He jumped to contest a high ball with Joe Rafferty and his leading foot thudded into the PNE left-back’s chest.

PNE defender Paul Huntington slides in to halt the run of Sheffield Wednesday's Callum Paterson

It was done without malice but was dangerous, referee David Webb’s decision to send him off the correct one.

Wednesday had come with the intention of being well organised and rigid with 11 men, so going down to 10 served only to make them even more drab.

After Barkhuizen netted, the visitors never really came out of their shape in search of an equaliser.

The goalscorer was to remark post-match that it was as if damage limitation was the objective rather than any meaningful chase of the game.

Josh Windass protests his innocence after being sent-off for a high challenge on Joe Rafferty

PNE bossed possession and I mean bossed it. They had a 75% share of the ball which is big at any level.

Alex Neil is not a manager who craves possession like some of his counterparts, so such a statistic just underlines how little Wednesday came at them in search of parity.

To be fair to North End, they did a good job of keeping the ball in the second half, having spells when they interlinked well.

But rarely was there a press on them from the Owls, hence them able to see out the contest without much discomfort.

PNE midfielder Ryan Ledson makes a sliding tackle against Sheffield Wednesday

For PNE to put one over Tony Pulis is always something the Preston faithful crave.

It was his Gillingham side who they built up something of a keen rivalry with in the mid to late 1990s.

A decade later there was the recall of two loan players when he was Stoke boss which didn’t sit well with North End fans.

Those fans were again not able to be at the ground to watch this overdue win.

However, they were able to make their voices heard at Deepdale for the first time since March.

Speakers were positioned in the four stands to pump crowd noise through.

North End manager Alex Neil delivers instructions from the technical area as Sheffield Wednesday counterpart Tony Pulis turns his back

It wasn’t just generic noise either, it was recordings of PNE supporters singing at matches in the past – even the Town End drummer could be heard at regular intervals.

It was well worth trying and I felt it did add something to the occasion.

What was not included in the noise ‘mix’ was some booing to accompany Windass on his 17th minute walk to the tunnel after being sent-off.

He’s the third Wednesday player to make that trek from pitch to dressing room in recent seasons.

Fernando Forestieri did so in February 2016, then Dominic Iorfa in April 2019. For balance, PNE have three red cards in the reverse fixture.

Eoin Doyle, Jermaine Beckford and Ben Pearson all walked at Hillsborough, team-mates Beckford and Doyle for fighting one another.

For whatever reason, this fixture does have its feisty side. That said, the actions of Windass were out of step with how generally this game went.

Quite why he chose the high foot approach to try and nick the ball from Rafferty when he could have headed it, you’d have to ask him.

Deprived of their central striker, the visitors slung nine players behind the ball.

The rest of the first half was a non-event as a consequence, save for a foul on Scott Sinclair by Liam Palmer which should have led to a penalty.

On this occasion, Mr Webb sided with Wednesday and waved away the appeal.

Neil changed direction at half-time, choosing to switch to 3-4-1-2 from the 4-2-3-1 he’d started with.

Brad Potts, who had been ineffective in the No.10 role, and Rafferty were taken off.

Rafferty’s exit was not a slight on his performance, more so that PNE simply didn’t need as many defenders.

On came Paul Gallagher and Jayden Stockley, the pair giving the home side a better balance and attacking edge.

Gallagher sat in midfield to pull the strings, that allowing skipper-for-the-day Daniel Johnson to push up the pitch after playing deeper in the first half.

Stockley teamed-up with Emil Riis up front, and later Sean Maguire when he took the Dane’s place.

It would be hard to claim it was an inspired double change as far as he goal was concerned, even if it did come within a couple of minutes of Gallagher and Stockley’s arrival on the pitch.

As the second half went on though, both subs played their part – Stockley just as much in his own box, getting back to head a couple of crosses clear when Wednesday did decide to mount the occasion attack.

The winner was a damn good finish from Barkhuizen, his first league goal of the season and third altogether.

Ledson played the ball from the left-wing to Johnson down the left hand side of the box and took the return pass.

Switching to the ball on to his right foot, Ledson curled a cross into the middle which goalkeeper Keiran Westwood chose to punch with Stockley nearby.

It fell to Barkhuizen just inside the box who watched it come down and hit a first-time left-foot shot which found the bottom corner.

A boost later in the second half was the introduction of Ben Pearson from the bench after a month out injured.

He’d only trained twice but snapped away and produced some good touches.

The man Pearson replaced in the 71st minute, Ledson, was my man of the match. His passing range is developing, the way he reads the game improving all the time.

Paul Huntington and Patrick Bauer were solid at the back, with Scott Sinclair getting more in the game in the second half.

It is Blackburn next at Deepdale on Tuesday night, get those speakers turned up to the max to help North End build on this much-needed three points.

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