Dave Seddon's verdict: Sheffield Wednesday 1 Preston North 3 - Formation change and substitutes combine for victory
The lottery that is the chase for the Championship’s sixth place saw Preston North End throw their number into the mix again with this dramatic win over Sheffield Wednesday.
Hitting the 78th minute of the clash at Hillsborough, the Lilywhites were in 11th place and six points behind Cardiff in the last play-off slot.
They trailed, against the run of play somewhat, to a Jacob Murphy goal.
The run without a victory looked set to stretch to an eighth game but PNE then flipped destiny on its head with three goals in 18 minutes.
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What an influence the subs bench was to have on a game played in filthy Yorkshire weather – it is really July?
Three substitutes scored and two others had a hand in one of the goals.
Opposition replacements had previously inflicted hurt on Preston – Luton’s Callum McManaman scored a late equaliser in the restart game.
In the defeat to Cardiff, two of the Welsh side’s goals were netted by subs Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Robert Glatzel.
The boot was on the other foot this time as Scott Sinclair, Jayden Stockley and Brad Potts found the net.
Sinclair ran on to a Stockley flick to equalise, then Stockley produced a finish of quality on the half-turn from the edge of the box.
Potts’ stoppage-time goal was the best of the lot, with the midfielder driving forward through the Wednesday half before picking his spot from 20 yards.
In among the goals was one disallowed at the other end, Julian Borner finding the net at 1-1 but team-mate Joey Pelupessy was pulled up for a foul on Declan Rudd.
Stockley’s goal came but 60 seconds after that to seize control for PNE.
While PNE’s play-off hopes remain out of their hands they are now in much better shape than they were at kick-off, indeed as they trailed going into those latter stages.
A change of formation paid dividends, Alex Neil making a rare switch to 3-5-2.
That meant the use of two strikers which had been long called for by some fans, on the flip side there were grumbles pre-match that the system was only in use to match-up the home side.
It worked a treat in that PNE bossed the first half and were then able to recover from a stickier spell in the second to take a grip.
Going three at the back meant a first league start since December for Jordan Storey.
Last season’s young player of the year has hardly had a sniff this campaign but looked like he hadn’t been away.
Playing on the right hand side of the three, with Patrick Bauer and Ben Davies further along, Storey was excellent.
His block in the box to deny Alessio Da Cruz in the first half was perfection.
The substitutes will make the headlines but Storey more than played his part – Joe Rafferty’s display in the right wing-back also worthy of note.
PNE’s system was actually more 3-4-1-2, skipper Alan Browne much further forward than sitting pair Ben Pearson and Ryan Ledson.
Tom Barkhuizen and Sean Maguire were paired up front and numerous times found space down the sides of the Owls defence.
Missed chances in the first-half looked like they were going to be costly when Murphy ran on to a flick from Atdhe Nuhiu to slot home.
That was the cue for Daniel Johnson and Potts to be summoned from the bench.
Sinclair and Stockley joined them in another double change a few minutes later and right away they linked-up for PNE’s equaliser.
Davies’ ball forward was headed on by Stockley which sent Sinclair racing clear. As he reached the box he stepped to his left to avoid a covering defender and lifted a shot into the net.
On came Paul Gallagher for Barkhuizen and not long after his pass found Johnson who picked-out Stockley on the edge of the box.
Stockley turned and hit a first-time finish into the far corner.
Seven minutes of stoppage-time was indicated and in the sixth of those, PNE scored the third.
Stockley won another header, once which Potts picked up part-way inside the home side’s half and pushed on before sweeping a fine shot past the keeper.