PREVIEW | Wednesday -v- Preston North End

PREVIEW | Wednesday -v- Preston North End

Victory over Leeds before the international break has seemingly changed the complexion of Wednesday’s run in.

The gap to the bottom three remains at eight points, but the nature of the late Nuhiu winner and the long-awaited return of some big-name players has eased the growing concerns.

Make no mistake, victory over Leeds is no indication of a turning tide: their form is almost as woeful as our own.

As the number of games remaining ticks nearer towards zero, however, that eight point gap becomes all the more healthy.

With just three wins under Jos Luhukay, it would be foolish to suggest that this Wednesday side are safe. But somehow, according to the table, there are seven teams in this division who are even more terrible than we are, which is remarkable.

Sunderland are five points from safety, they have accrued the same number of points in 2018 – across thirteen games. Consecutive relegations against a backdrop of boardroom uncertainty looks to be a formality. Of course, we take the trip to the north-east on Monday.

First, we have a repeat of our opening day fixture. Preston North End – hot on the heels of the play-offs, visit Hillsborough in a bid to repeat their August result.

The Deepdale defeat perfectly encapsulated all that was wrong in the first half of the season.

Preston secured an opening day win (Image: pnefc.net)

A lethargic performance, lacking any real fight, determination or forward movement meant Wednesday never looked like winning the game.

A Preston counter and a hacked challenge in the box saw North End convert to secure three points.

The attitude of the fans – boisterous and noisy before kick-off, vehemently angry at 5pm – perfectly reflected the balloon of pre-season hope being deflated by the needle of déjà vu.

‘Third time lucky’, we said in August. The blue balloon that was supposed to be helium-filled turned out to be packed with lead.

Without revisiting the entire myriad of set-backs that Wednesday have suffered this season, not one of us on the drive home from Preston would have imagined it getting That Bad. That Bad.

Wednesday have taken Preston’s usual spot in the lower mid-table, while North End are on the cusp of the play-offs. And deservedly so.

Their side is young, athletic, well-drilled. Not prolific scorers, they are riding high thanks to a solid back-line that has conceded fewer than one goal a game. They have suffered just eight defeats. Wednesday have won just nine games.

 

 

LAST 5 Leeds (A) Bolton (H) Ipswich (H) Bristol C. (A) Swansea (A)
WEDNESDAY W 2-1 D 1-1 L 1-2 L 0-4 L 0-2

 

LAST 5  Sunderland (A) Fulham (H) Bristol (H) Bolton (A) Ipswich (H)
PRESTON W 2-0 L 1-2 W 2-1 W 3-1 L 0-1

 

HEAD 2 HEAD WEDNESDAY WINS PRESTON WINS DRAWS
  41 42 24

 

 

THE LUHUKAY STARS…

 

Sam Hutchinson

The international break has seen a number of players climb near to full fitness, while other long-term absentees are back on the training pitch.

Sam Hutchinson and Barry Bannan returned to action at Elland Road, while Tom Lees added an extra steel to the Wednesday back-three in only his second 90 minutes since last year.

With almost a full two weeks of full training to complement their match minutes, surely all three will feature from the start against Preston.

How we’ve missed all three.

Fernando Forestieri will return to the squad over the Easter Weekend, definitely at Sunderland if not before. His only full 90 minutes came against our Good Friday opposition back in August.

This has obviously been a season to forget for Forestieri. Despite all his troubles – a shaky second year shrouded in contract mystery has been followed by this, a season where he has been almost entirely absent. After Wembley, our star player was unquestionably amongst the most talented in the division: capable of winning games from nothing and tormenting defenders across the length of a back-four.

We can all hope that his debilitating long-term injury has not hampered his flash, over-confident, thoroughly exciting style of play.

By god, we need some signs of life on the Hillsborough turf.

Recently, those signs have come from Atdhe Nuhiu and Lucas Joao. Give Joao all the encouragement he needs. Give Nuhiu a lifetime contract. Immediately.

The knee slide celebration at Elland Road was life-giving.

WILDSMITH

VENANCIO

LEES

PUDIL

HUNT

BANNAN

HUTCHINSON

REACH

BOYD

NUHIU

JOAO

HUGH’S VERDICT – The two week break has bred confidence in the Wednesday camp. Confidence off the back of a valuable away win, confidence off the back of returning stars.

Our first-teamers will be ring rusty, naturally.

Should they make it through the opening bouts (Sam Hutchinson – I’m looking at you!) then we know their particular qualities combined can be enough to win a game.

Tom Lees clearing the ball off the line. Barry Bannan turning, turning again, surging towards goal, laying the ball off. Sam Hutchinson taking ball, man, a roll of turf, the linesman.

One win this weekend will leave those at the bottom needing at least four from their remaining games to catch Wednesday.

Let’s hope Friday is Good.

Hugh
Owls Alive
E-MAIL: owlsalive@gmail.com
Twitter: @OwlsAlive and @hugh_wragg

Images: SWFC, unless stated. Line up images: Getty.


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