Match report: Sheffield Wednesday 4 PNE 1

Louis Moult scores PNE's goal at Hillsborough
Louis Moult scores PNE's goal at Hillsborough

Preston North End's play-off hopes suffered a jolt as they went down to a heavy defeat to Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.

It was the first time they had conceded four goals under Alex Neil, two of the home side's goals coming in stoppage-time.

Darnell Fisher challenges Morgan Fox in the air

Darnell Fisher challenges Morgan Fox in the air

The sides had turned around goalless at half-time, North End having been the better side in the first half and bossing possession.

But it started to go wrong as Wednesday scored twice in two minutes early in the second half.

Atdhe Nuhiu fired them ahead in the 50th minute, with substitute Lucas Joao doubling the advantage soon after with a header after stealing behind the Preston defence.

North End got themselves back in the game with 18 minutes left, Louis Moult scoring from close range within a couple of minutes of coming off the bench - that his first PNE goal since signing from Motherwell in January.

Callum Robinson in action for PNE at Hillsborough

Callum Robinson in action for PNE at Hillsborough

The contest reached stoppage time with the scoreline 2-1 and there looked to be hope for the visitors when seven minutes of stoppage-time was signalled.

But it was the home side who took advantage of the added time, Nuhiu curling home a fine third before substitute Fernando Forestieri hit the fourth late on with a free-kick.

While the result was certainly a dent in PNE's hopes of making the top six, the damage was limited by results elsewhere.

Middlesbrough were beaten by Wolves, while Derby - the visitors to Deepdale on Monday - lost 4-1 to Sunderland in the shock result of the day in the Championship.

North End remain two points behind Boro and Derby as they were at the start of the day, although Millwall and Sheffield United went above them in the table.

The Lilywhites side had shown just the one change, Declan Rudd returning in goal in place of Chris Maxwell - Rudd had missed the win at Sunderland before the international break to attend the birth of his son.

In the first half play was littered with niggly fouls, referee Tim Robinson showing a yellow card to Wednesday midfielder Sam Hutchinson after just 17 seconds.

Tom Barkhuizen had PNE's first sight of goal in the third minute, running on to Paul Gallagher's chipped ball over the top and volleying over the bar from a tight angle to the right of goal.

North End continued to have more of the ball as the half went on but without being to get behind a packed home defence too often.

At the other end, a cross shot from Adam Reach deflected off a Preston boot and looped up, Nuhiu meeting it and sending a header over the bar.

In the 35th minute, a Gallagher free-kick was headed wide by Paul Huntington, then Ben Davies got on the end of another Gallagher set piece but flicked a header across goal and wide of the far post.

The best chance of the first period came in the third minute of time added on, Ben Pearson launching a free-kick from just inside the Wednesday half into the box.

Huntington rose in the air to head it on, Davies stealing forward to get in a header from six yards which he could only send straight at goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith - either side of him it would have been a goal.

The first half statistics showed that North End had enjoyed 58% possession and they could be satisfied with their work going into the interval, even if a cutting edge was missing.

However, the contest was flipped on its head by two Wednesday goals in as many minutes at the start of the second half.

Alan Browne had seen a shot from 20 yards disappear over the bar in the 48th minute, Gallagher intercepting a Daniel Pudil clearance to create the chance.

But less than two minutes later, it was the home side who went ahead.

Rudd got good distance on a punched clearance from a corner, but the ball was picked up by the home side and fed out to Jack Hunt on the right.

Hunt was allowed to get down the side of the box and send in a low cross which Nuhiu shot home first-time from six yards.

The hosts' celebrations had hardly died down when they got their second goal in the 52nd minute.

Barry Bannan dropped a high ball over the top of the Preston defence from the left, substitute Joao running on to it and looping a header over Rudd.

Sean Maguire had a great chance to pull a goal back but couldn't bring the ball under control at the far post after the ball had dropped across the box.

The woodwork denied North End in the 69th minute, Barkhuizen drilling in a low cross from the right hand side of the box which Wednesday wing-back Hunt slid against the foot of the post under pressure from Robinson.

Moult and Johnson were introduced into the action as a double change for Maguire and Gallagher in the 70th minute.

Less than two minutes later, the substitutes had combined to halved the deficit.

Robinson's back heel played Johnson into space down the left side of the box, DJ rolling a low cross into the middle which Moult knocked home from six yards.

North End piled on the pressure after that but an equaliser evaded them, with Wednesday going on to catch them cold in stoppage-time with two more goals.

Rudd pulled off a fine save with his knees to deny Joao after the striker had played a one-two with Forestieri.

But when Wednesday won a corner with two minutes of time added on played, it was played short inside to Nuhiu who cut inside and curled a shot into the far top corner.

It got worse in the 95th minute after Davies' foul on Joao gave away a free-kick 20 yards out and earned the PNE defender a yellow card.

Foresteri stepped-up and curled it right-footed over the wall and into the net.

Wednesday: Wildsmith, Venancio, Lees, Pudil, Hunt (Palmer 74), Pelupessy, Hutchinson (Joao 46), Bannan (Forestieri 77), Fox, Reach, Nuhiu. Subs (not used): Jones, Rhodes, Butterfield, Dawson.

PNE: Rudd, Fisher (Harrop 77) Huntington, Davies, Earl, Pearson, Gallagher (Johnson 70), Barkhuizen, Browne, Robinson, Maguire (Moult 70). Subs (not used): Cunningham, Clarke, Bodin, Maxwell.

Referee: Tim Robinson (West Sussex)

Attendance: 26,588