RAMBLE: Wednesday -v- Preston

RAMBLE: Wednesday -v- Preston

After back-to-back away wins in the north-east and the capital, we were back at Hillsborough for another Roses battle, this time with Preston North End.

To start, I’d like to talk about the protest over ticket prices that has happened this weekend, involving fans from all 20 Premier League clubs and 10 Championship teams (we were not one of them.)

I’m in full support of away tickets being capped at £20 across the country, thus being made cheaper for everyone.

Football fans came together this weekend

Football fans came together this weekend

Football needs to be given back to the people and communities in the sport but we all know that’s not going to happen any time soon, while the up coming TV deal and sponsorship juggernaut is in full flow.

There will be fans who go to games regardless of the price because that’s what they do.

I’ll admit I can be one of those but there comes a point when you should know better and know you’re being ripped off.

We need to learn from the German model and implement it here; if people continue to buy tickets at a high prices, clubs will see no reason to make them cheaper.

We have a wealthy owner who wants a return on his investment and I totally understand that.

I’m not affected due to having a season ticket but you have to feel for the occasional fan, with those in question most likely having jobs and families to support.

The chairman must balance financial reality and supporters' feeling

The chairman must balance financial reality and supporters’ feeling

It comes down to them not being priced out of attending. I just hope, for Dejphon Chansiri’s sake, that it works out.

A quick mention on our meeting with Arsenal in the next round of the League Cup – I’m buzzing.

It’ll be a special night at Hillsborough under the lights and I can’t wait. I fully expect Arsenal to take it seriously as it is probably one of two competitions (the other being the FA Cup) they can try to win.

As for us, I hope we put out a strong side and have a real go. Despite it being televised on Sky, people will want to be there.

It’s our first meeting with the Gunners for 15 years. It should mean an attendance over 30,000 with a large away contingent from North London.

Again, I bring up the ticket prices for this game – £25 for season ticket holders and members in all areas of the ground and £30-£36 for non-members. Under 17s can go for £5 whilst for under 21s it’s £10.

To me, that’s reasonable and what I expected but fans (mainly non-STHs) will moan about it being too expensive.

Fans who go on a regular basis should enjoya small discount in cases like this; it makes sense to me. The pricing should be commended.

PRE-MATCH

The gaffer had the players on 'red alert' before the game

The gaffer had the players on ‘red alert’ before the game

On the way to the game, there was cause for optimism.

Since the Middlesbrough defeat, we’ve made a lot of improvements and results have picked up – three wins in a row for the first time since December 2012. I must admit I was surprised when I first saw that statistic.

I was hoping our good form could carry on against a team that is struggling to adjust to life back in the Championship.

Saying that, this is the type of game where we can slip up and as Carlos quite rightly put it in his press conference – the players are on “red alert” as Preston have players that can hurt us.

SWFC: Westwood; Hunt, Lees, Turner, Pudil; Lee, Hutchinson; Wallace, Forestieri, Bannan; Nuhiu

PNE: Pickford; Woods, Clarke, McCarthy, Cunningham; Johnson, Browne, Welsh, Reach; Keane, May

There was one change from the win at Brentford, with Fernando Forestieri coming in for Marco Matias who dropped to the bench, while Jeremy Helan was suspended after his stupid sending off.

I was surprised that Daniel Pudil was starting given his partner gave birth to a baby girl at 5:30am.

I wasn’t sure how long he would last; he must’ve been shattered given the circumstances. It was good that we weren’t tinkering with the side too much as things are going well. There’s no need for change unless it’s enforced.

For Preston, Bailey Wright and Joe Garner were suspended.

Paddy McCarthy was confirmed as a signing on the morning of the game and was thrown straight into the side.

Would former loanee Keane return to haunt the Owls?

Would former loanee Keane return to haunt the Owls?

Seeing Will Keane and Stevie May up front together scared me; I was sure one of them was bound to score given our history with former players coming back to haunt us.

I was that sure I put £1 on Stevie May to score anytime at 3/1.

Another former Owl, Chris Kirkland, was on the bench and Marnick Vermijl was ineligible under the terms of his loan agreement.

Programme purchased, Arsenal tickets purchased. It was time for the match to start.

FIRST HALF

The game started with chants of “Carlos had a dream” from the Kop and it’s an addicting song. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head all week.

We were on the front foot early on with Pudil providing a ball for Forestieri whose shot was blocked for a corner. Ross Wallace swings it in to the far post with Michael Turner heading over, much to my disappointment given his hat trick of assists two weeks ago.

There was some great play involving Kieran Lee and Atdhe Nuhiu but Calum Woods snuffed out the danger at the last for another corner.

Before it could be taken, Preston had to be forced into a change. McCarthy’s debut was cut short due to injury. He was helped off the pitch by the medical team.

The corner was eventually taken and punched clear by Pickford. Preston were looking to break but we defended well.

Bannan: Rapidly becoming a fans' favourite

Bannan: Rapidly becoming a fans’ favourite

I must say that Barry Bannan is fast becoming a fan favourite at S6. He has a great work rate, he looks comfortable on the ball and can pick out a pass. He did some great work on the right, with a bit of showboating, before it was cleared away.

20 minutes gone and we were on top, making plenty of threats going forward. Preston looked ordinary and had offered very little. A half chance came when a free kick from May was blocked by the wall.

It was turning into a poor match as the minutes went by, neither ‘keeper being severely tested. Preston were keeping us at bay.

We needed to step our game up by a gear or two otherwise it was going to be one of those days when nothing would go right.

Half an hour in and Tom Lees was at both ends of the pitch. First, he made an important headed clearance from Daniel Johnson’s corner and second, had a free header in the box but it went over. A great chance missed.

The crowd were subdued and needed a bit of magic to get them off their feet. There were plenty of options on the bench and I thought it could get us going if a substitution was made at the break.

And then, into three minutes of first half stoppage time (due to the McCarthy injury), a superb move involving Forestieri and Lee sent the latter through and the September player of the month made no mistake, shooting low across goal and past Pickford.

Kieran Lee put the Owls in front

Kieran Lee put the Owls in front

1-0! HIS TOUCH IS GOLDEN!

A goal right on the stroke of half time – always a great time to score. Disappointing from Preston as they were looking comfortable but Kieran Lee wasn’t going to miss on his 100th appearance for the club.

The goal changed the mood of the crowd drastically. Soon after, the half time whistle went.

HALF TIME: WEDNESDAY 1-0 PRESTON

Not the prettiest first half of football by any stretch of the imagination but we were winning so I couldn’t complain.

We needed to up our game in the second 45 otherwise we’d get punished.

No subs were made by either side and we were back under way.

SECOND HALF

We started the second half in the same way we started the first, looking for an early second goal to give us that bit of breathing space.

An early chance came for Wednesday when a corner was taken short and Forestieri found the head of Lees, who headed inches wide.

Not long after that, Bannan tried his luck from long range with Pickford producing a top save. The rebound fell to Forestieri and his shot was blocked by Woods.

Daddy Pudil doubled the Owls' lead

Daddy Pudil doubled the Owls’ lead

Then there was a defensive mix-up in the Preston back line. Welsh tried to clear the ball but it fell to the doting Dad Pudil who slotted it into the far corner from a tight angle. Nuhiu slid in to make sure but the ball was already over the line.

2-0!

I was really pleased for Pudil, what a day he was having!

I didn’t want to tempt fate at this point but we were looking in control. Preston needed to shake things up if they were to get anything.

The two former Owls, Keane and May, went off with Eoin Doyle and Jordan Hugill the replacements.

Well, that was my bet lost. To be fair, May was ineffective all game, huffing and puffing with no real quality. He barely had a kick. I can see why we sold him now.

All of a sudden, Preston’s attack clicked as Hugill headed over from a Greg Cunningham cross. Shortly after, the other sub Doyle headed wide from an Adam Reach cross. This is so typical of us; sitting back, inviting pressure on and being complacent.

Midway through the half, we made a double sub of our own. Lucas João and Lewis McGugan on, Nuhiu and Wallace off.

We were trying to get a third goal to wrap the game up but we were gifting possession to Preston far too cheaply and we were made to pay for that.

Browne ensured a nervy last 15 minutes

Browne ensured a nervy last 15 minutes

A corner was whipped in to the back post, Clarke headed it back across goal and there was Alan Browne who turned and shot hard and low, giving the visitors a lifeline.

2-1

Once again, we switched off. I wasn’t even surprised. It’s becoming a habit this season, making games difficult when we should be out of sight.

Minutes later, Welsh had a go from 20 yards, which Westwood parried and it went for a corner. From that, Reach’s effort was cleared off the line by Lee. We were hanging on. Why do we always do this?

Into the final 10 and it was turning into another nervy finish. Credit must be given to Preston for fighting back.

Another chance came and went with Doyle shooting over. There was only one team in the game at this point.

There was trouble in the away end with fans fighting with stewards and among themselves. Later, I saw the footage from a more close-up view and it was bang out of order. No need for it in football.

We then made our final change; Alex Lopez on for Forestieri. It was time to close the doors and windows, as Carlos would say.

Preston were still in the ascendancy. We couldn’t get the ball out of our half.

The board went up for added time.

Five minutes.

We broke away from a corner, it was three on one! Bannan found Lopez with only the ‘keeper to beat but he was denied.

A minute to go and Hutch goes down injured; at least he hadn’t been booked which was a shock to all of us!

Preston were allowed one final chance from a corner, and Pickford was up for it!

McGugan shoots...

McGugan shoots…

The corner came to nothing and we broke away. The crowd urged Lopez to shoot from well inside our own half, which he didn’t do. He passed to McGugan who had his back to goal, then had a look up and went for it.

It was dipping… Pickford was scrambling back… Was it going in? I couldn’t tell.

It went in just under the bar. Cue wild scenes.

3-1!

What a fantastic finish. McGugan couldn’t have placed it any better. The nerves were settled.

The referee soon blew his whistle. Another three points!

Walking out of the ground, we all heard Dem Blades had lost 2-1 at Port Vale. You can’t beat a Sheffield double!

FULL TIME: WEDNESDAY 3-1 PRESTON

...and scores!

…and scores!

So that’s four wins in a row in all competitions. A deserved win but we made hard work of it like we normally do – it’s the Wednesday way after all.

Similar to the Brentford game last week, we didn’t play particularly well at times but we got the result which is the most important thing. Confidence is high and that can only be a good thing.

If we hadn’t won the last few games (which could’ve easily happened), we’d have been grumbling and there would be less jubilation. It’s fine margins at the moment and we’re getting that bit of lady luck for a change. You could say the results look better than the performances.

The signs are there that the squad is coming together nicely. There’s still work to be done of course but I’m pleased with the progress made over the last month.

If this can be maintained a top six spot looks a real possibility. I’m not getting carried away though.

There’s a difference I’ve noticed compared to last season. Apart from playing better and attractive football; we now have quality players, be it starting or coming off the bench and making an impact.

These flashes of brilliance from individuals can win us games in the future.

Nuhiu again showed his worth and how vital he is for us. As soon as he went off we lost our focal point and not for the first time this season.

The shape of the team changes, the opposition starts to claw their way back into games and as a result we look vulnerable.

João is one for the future and we should keep bringing him on, give him the game time and nurture him.

On McGugan, he’s scored in his last two outings and will give Carlos something to think about. If you’re asking me, it’s difficult to see who he replaces.

A happy Wednesday camp right now

A happy Wednesday camp right now

Bannan is playing fantastic, Lee is undroppable and Hutch has been one of our best players despite his yellow card accumulation of six so far.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see McGugan doing well but we have better players performing in front of him. It shows how far we’ve come when he was our main player during his loan spells.

Another international break is upon us and again it has come at a good time.

The players deserve a well-earned rest (Pudil won’t as he’ll have sleepless nights with the newborn!)

Hopefully they’ll come back with the same mentality and energy.

The next run of games will be a stern test – seven matches in 22 days against the likes of Hull, QPR, Arsenal and current league leaders Brighton.

There’s a feelgood factor around S6 and I’m excited as to what lies ahead.

Carlos had a dream.

Liam Kelly
Owls Alive
E-MAIL: admin@owlsalive.com
TWITTER: @OwlsAlive or @LiamK2292


3 Comments

  1. Good stuff – just as a ramble should be .

    • Appreciate it Alan!

  2. Great to get another viewpoint of the match and really appreciate you lads doing the pre and post match rambles. Keep up the good work !

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