Three points against Owls means it's been a decent start to season, says Preston fan John Roper
Three league wins out of three for North End as Sheffield Wednesday became the latest side to leave Deepdale empty handed care of a double penalty strike from Daniel Johnson.
Twice Sean Maguire was clearly fouled in the box by Odubajo and twice referee Jones had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Fletcher scored for the Owls with 12 minutes to go leaving a nervous finish for North End, but the boys saw it out to record another three points and take themselves to sixth in the Championship on Saturday evening.
This was a very solid more than spectacular display by North End and whilst chances were generally few and far in the game, I thought that North End deserved the victory on the day having a bit more energy than the visitors and, apart from the last 15 minutes, always looked like the side in control of the game.
Maguire was back to near his best and Pearson once again reigned supreme in the middle but it was Daniel Johnson who takes my man-of-the-match accolade not just for the two penalties but for his ever increasing influence in the North End side.
To be quite honest, the first half an hour of the game was fought out in midfield with North End slightly on top in terms of possession on the ball. Both defences were looking comfortable and the pre-match predictions about this being a tight affair certainly looked accurate as both teams just struggled a little to make that final telling pass.
Bodin and Maguire were keeping the full backs busy down the flanks and Jayden Stockley was certainly playing his part albeit against a big centre back pairing for Sheffield. Finally the deadlock was broken when a long ball found Maguire in the inside left position and the Irishman went past Odubajo only to be brought down for a clear penalty kick.
Up stepped Daniel Johnson who sent the ball to the keeper’s left and although Westwood, in the visitors’ goal, got a good hand to it the ball safely snuggled in the back of the net and North End were in the lead.
The was a late shout for handball in the first half by Barry Bannan but referee Jones waived play on and North End went into the break deservedly a goal to the good. In the second half Wednesday came out, as you would expect, with a bit more determination kicking towards the 4,536 fans that had made the trip from South Yorkshire to cheer their team on.
Once North End had seen off the early challenge from the visitors Alex Neil brought on Tom Barkhuizen for Billy Bodin, the latter having his workload closely monitored after a long spell out last season. Barkhuizen was put through by Fisher just after coming on but Westwood saved well and the chance had gone.
A throw from the left was helped on to Maguire who once again beat Odubajo only for the defender to flatten the Irishman again and concede a second penalty of the game. Johnson, once again, stepped up and fired into the same corner as the first penalty sending Westwood the wrong way this time and giving North End a comfortable lead.
The nerves began to appear, though, when Adam Reach went down the left and crossed for Fletcher to head home with twelve minutes to go but despite one or two near misses North End held out and collected the points.
All is well that ends well for North End and considering we had four changes to the side that played Stoke on Wednesday evening we still looked strong and capable beating one of the fancied teams in the section this season.
Clarke, Harrop, Barkhuizen and Gallagher all stepped down from the team on Wednesday evening but in Stockley, Browne, Fisher and Maguire, North End had more than adequate replacements.
It may well be one of the features of this season that the big squad may well give Alex Neil almost two teams to choose from and when injuries and suspensions play their part it could be that North End are well equipped to cope. For now you would have to say it has been a good start to the season with North End sitting in the top six.