PREVIEW: Wednesday -v- Preston

PREVIEW: Wednesday -v- Preston

Stepping into the big shoes of preview guru Danny (although I’m a size 11), I’ll be deputising for this week’s match preview of Sheffield Wednesday v Preston North End.

Despite the favourable margins in London, Wednesday will be firm favourites to make it four wins from four in all competitions at home to a Preston side without a league win in their last seven. Their win over MK Dons on 15 August is now but a distant memory.

It’s certainly been a tough comeback to the Championship for Preston, joining the two other promoted teams in propping up the bottom three at present.

Making the leap from League One to the Championship isn’t easy: just above that bottom three sit two of last season’s promoted teams; Wednesday’s now effectively third team Rotherham, and last weekend’s opponents Brentford.

 

 

HAVE WE MET BEFORE?

Irvine: Failed at S6

Irvine: Failed at S6

There is some recent, shared history between the two teams.

Wednesday took on Alan Irvine as manager in January 2010 just 10 days after he had been sacked by Saturday’s opponents Preston.

He of course failed to prevent relegation despite an early upsurge in form under his reign. The memories of Irvine at Preston will be in stark contrast to those of Wednesday fans, having transformed North End from relegation material to contestants in a third Championship play-offs in five years.

A very recent common acquaintance was  that of Stevie May, who moved to Preston North End just as the transfer window was closing a month ago, in a deal believed to be worth around £1 million.

That so far looks shrewder business for Wednesday, as May, and another fonder acquaintance of Wednesday’s, loan boy Will Keane, have headed the division’s worst attack with just six goals from nine matches.

Still a top 'keeper

Still a top ‘keeper

To round off the trio of former Wednesday players at Deepdale, Chris Kirkland has found another bench to warm at Preston, and is somewhat surprisingly yet to feature this season.

Judging from the numbers, Preston’s style is abrasive and old-fashioned, with only Ipswich having more inaccurate long balls per game, and only Brighton have a worse disciplinary record.

Wednesday have overperformed in front of goal, converting 13% of shots taken into goals – more than all but Fulham – while only Bolton have managed worse than Preston’s 5.6% scored from shots taken (having ex-Wednesday strikers doesn’t seem to help matters).

Last game Opposition Result Shots On target Corners Cards Fouls Possession
WEDNESDAY Brentford (A) W 2-1 15 6 3 3 18 43%
PRESTON Wolves (H) D 1-1 8 2 3 6 12 35%

 

The star of the show

The star of the show

Wednesday were day and night against Brentford, and perhaps put their mental feet up once they were 1-0 up from the spot and a one-man advantage had been gained. To be penned back by 10 men, like we were for big parts of the second half, doesn’t bode well. We all of the sudden seemed sapped of energy, and were way too deep, and that despite only two of the heroes from St James’ Park in midweek starting at Griffin Park.

To have Joao cooly slot it home after pouncing on a rare defensive error from Brentford in that second half prompted Brentford’s (since departed) head coach Marinus Djikhuizen to chirp: “I think Sheffield Wednesday will go to the casino tonight – and we will not,” while Carlos Carvahal  conceded his side was“a little lucky, not big lucky[…] In the lottery we won 2-1.”

Preston went one better than either Brentford and Wednesday, and had two players sent off at home to Wolves, but still somehow managed a credible draw. They were nearly as lucky as Wednesday but their nine men conceded a deserved equaliser late on.

 

 

HEAD 2 HEAD WEDNESDAY WINS PRESTON WINS DRAWS
 League 36 36 20

LAST MEETING: 31 March 2012, Hillsborough, Att – 18,069

Wednesday 2-0 Preston
(Madine 49, 64)

Jose Semedo Wednesday Preston 2012Wednesday last played Preston in 2012 in League One, when Gary Madine was indeed a goal machine. His brace securing a relatively comfortable 2-0 win. This was in the middle of our mad end to the season of 11 wins and three draws as we booked our return to the Championship.

Hillsborough has been a happy hunting ground for Preston in recent decades, though, and I’m sure I’m not the only one with grim images of Preston-strikers (Richard Cresswell, Jonathan Macken, Dave Nugent and even textbook tank centre forward Jon Parkin) scoring in yet another Preston smash-and-grab win.

Indeed, rummaging the history books turns up just two other home wins against Preston, to match the one in 2012, and a whopping five defeats.

 

CARVALHAL’S COHORTS

Carlos Carvalhal SWFC manager

With no midweek game, Carvalhal could go with the same line-up he used at Brentford, though he’ll be hoping Fernando Forestieri is fully back in contention. If that happens, it’ll more than likely be the largely ineffective Marco Matias making way.

Daniel Pudil went off with an injury on Saturday, which – with Helan coming on – very nearly cost us the game. Carvalhal will be hoping the so far impressive Pudil is back, with Preston favouring attacks down their right flank more than almost any other team (42% of attacks). Preston’s wing play, like much of their attacking play, has been largely unproductive with no goals assisted from crosses so far, compared to Wednesday’s five.

Barry Bannan has been impressive so far, and his general football intelligence married to an ability to deliver inch-perfect passes has seemingly made him an early favourite of an otherwise rotation-happy Carvalhal.

Kieran Lee has been equally impressive; his range, attacking runs and positional ability keeping out new signings Alex Lopez and Lewis McGugan, and a good foil for the manic energy of Sam Hutchinson and the studied ball striker Bannan. If Kieran Lee was a rug, the Dude would definitely say he tied the room/team together.

Nine players have supplied Wednesday’s 12 league goals this term, with Tom Lees’ two goals making him an unlikely shared top scorer with Matias and Atdhe Nuhiu. In the whole of last season, 11 different players scored goals (conversely, Preston have relied on midfielder Daniel Johnson for four of their six goals).

WESTWOOD

WESTWOOD

HUNT

HUNT

LEES

LEES

TURNER

TURNER

PUDIL

PUDIL

LEE

LEE

FORESTIERI

FORESTIERI

HUTCHINSON

HUTCHINSON

BANNAN

BANNAN

NUHIU

NUHIU

WALLACE

WALLACE

KEY PLAYERS

I’m a long-time admirer of Kieran Lee, the textbook definition of unsung hero. Mind you he’s now picked up September’s player of the month award, so I might find myself having to fend off even more admirers of his now – he’s mine, and I saw him first!

His touch his golden...

His touch his golden…

Last season his six goals actually made him our fourth highest scorer, prior to which then-manager Stuart Gray had noted several times publicly that Lee needed to go for goal more often whether shooting or running. He’s scored once in the League Cup, but despite registering more shots per 90 minutes than last season in the Championship, he’s yet to score in the league despite the aforementioned whopping nine Wednesday players to score league goals this season.

Against a defensively-minded Preston, Lee will be key: Using his keen sense for positioning by nipping the counter-attacks Preston will rely on for success in the bud. But also, with the space afforded him by Preston’s tactics, by making runs into the box, teeing up shots or finishing off rebounds, and becoming the 10th Wednesday player to score a league goal this season.

Pickford: Susceptible to corners?

Pickford: Susceptible to corners?

Preston’s young on-loan ‘keeper, Jordan Pickford, just about old enough to drink had he lived in the States, has impressed enough for Preston to keep Chris Kirkland benched and for Pickford win his first England under-21 cap. This is his seventh loan spell in four years, with more than 100 first team appearances from the Conference to the Championship to his name despite his tender years.

The division’s longest-kicking (64 metres on average) ‘keeper has kept three clean sheets. He has, however, conceded twice from corners already this season, while Wednesday have already scored from three corners, one crossed free-kick and in total a division-topping five headed goals. So a possible weakness for Wednesday to exploit with Ross Wallace’s good deliveries there.

 

THE BETTING BOX: 5 OF THE BEST

BET Wednesday WIN Preston WIN DRAW Lee first goal Correct score 3-1
BEST ODDS 6/5 27/10 5/2 20/1 21/1
BOOKIES Marathon Bet logo Bookies Badge Coral BetVictor-logo Bookies Badge Boylesport BetVictor-logo

 

DANNY VERSUS THE WORLD

Danny versus the world

Each week Danny pits his betting wits against a pair of Twitter pundits as he places an imaginary £10 bet on the Wednesday game.

There were no winners last week, although  Hugh Wragg was denied a 16/1 winner by João’s late…err…winner.

DANNY‘s £10 bet: Danny  wanted his favourite Both Teams To Score but, at 19/20 with both Unibet and 888sport, it doesn’t offer value. So it’s Stevie May to score anytime, and do what so many ex-players seem to have done to Wednesday over the years, come back and haunt us. That’s widely available at 3/1 with bet365, 888sport and Unibet among others.

WEDNESDAY fan Shane Ives-Keeler (@shanealdo21) said: “Wednesday to win 1-0. Preston are tight at the back so we will struggle but they are missing key players so we’ll see how it goes.” That narrow win for the Owls is available at 7/1 with BetVictor, 888sport and others.

Pessimistic PRESTON fan Dominic said: “A win for your lot probably! We never get anything at Hillsborough.” – A Wednesday win is 6/5 with Marathon Bet.

STANDINGS (total profits)

Danny – £81.25
Wednesdayites – £60

Opposition fans – £30

LOEHMANN’S LOWDOWN

If we are to entertain any semblance of reaching the play-offs this season, we’ll need to win 1.65 points per game for the rest of the season. To do so we need to we need to win three, draw one and lose two of every six matches we play. In such a scenario, the prospect of playing a promoted team in poor form at home cannot be described as anything other than a must-win match. Not that different to when we played Bolton and unfortunately huffed and puffed fruitlessly.

We’ve already scored nearly half the number of goals at home (7) that we did in all 23 home matches last season (16). The vibe at Hillsborough feels just as transformed from last season’s wholly destructive atmosphere as the playing squad, chuntering about ticket prices and the playing style being too elaborate aside.

Preston will be without first choices Bailey Wright in central defence and Joe Garner up front, with both serving suspensions for their red cards at the weekend. I’m sure Preston will have seen what Ipswich in particular did to us: try to dominate us physically (although Wednesday have actually committed the most fouls in the division). At the same time, they will try to stay compact and rigid and play on the counter against what has become a customary high defensive line of Wednesday’s, with particular frailties behind either Wednesday attacking full-back.

The ingredients for a thumping Wednesday win are definitely there, though. But it wouldn’t be the Wednesday way to do things easily. But we do look a lot more comfortable in matches this season than we have for many years. As a Wednesdayite, you might even go a few games without uttering those depressingly familiar words: “Typical Wednesday…”.

Here’s to “Typical Wednesday” instead becoming a description for crisp, efficient and convincing football.

VERDICT: 3-1 to the Wednesday, but it will take a while for us to get going: Preston have conceded six of their 10 goals in the last 30 minutes of matches. We may well go behind first, although Wednesday have only been behind at the interval once in nine matches.

Peter
E-MAIL: admin@owlsalive.com
TWITTER: @ploehmann or @DGood83


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