North End lost their first away game since November 4th, but the scoreline didn’t reflect the performance as Sheffield Wednesday won the game 4-1 at Hillsborough.
Louis Moult scored his first goal in North End colours, as the yellows tried to mount a comeback, but two late goals flattered the Owls in the steel city.
Atdhe Nuhiu scored a brace, with substitutes Lucas Joao and Fernando Forestieri scoring the others, as Wednesday scored four goals from five shots on target, but at the other end Alex Neil’s men had the chances to get something from the game.
Declan Rudd returned to the side in the only change to the side that last played, in the win at Sunderland before the international break, and the Lilywhites dominated the first half and had the chances to be out of sight by the interval.
In the third minute a clever Paul Gallagher through ball found Tom Barkhuizen on the right hand side of the box and he gave himself a yard of space before firing in a shot from a tight angle, but it flashed just over Joe Wildsmith’s bar.
All the best of the first half chances came from the quality of Gallagher and just after the hour mark, his cross from the right found Paul Huntington 15 yards out, but his powerful header was just over the right hand corner of the bar.
Just before the half-time whistle came the real opportunity to go in ahead. Ben Pearson’s free kick from the half-way line found PNE skipper Huntington in the left hand corner of the box; he headed on to the edge of the six yard box where Ben Davies was unmarked, but his header was straight at the Owls’ keeper, when either side was a guaranteed opening goal.
At the interval home boss Jos Luhukay made a change, putting an additional striker – in Joao – up alongside Nuhiu and it proved to be a big difference.
The opening goal came five minutes into the second half when Jack Hunt found soace on the right to drill a ball into the penalty area, through a crowd of players, and Nuhiu was on hand unmarked six yards out to fire past Rudd into the bottom right hand corner.
And within 90 seconds Wednesday doubled their tally as Barry Bannan floated a pass from 45 yards out to the edge of the box and Joao looped a header up and over Rudd into the top left hand corner.
North End reacted positively to going behind and had some gilt-edged chances to get back into the game. Firstly Barkhuizen picked up the ball down the left and floated a superb ball to the back post where Sean Maguire had the ball in the right hand corner of the six yard box, he seemed destined to half the deficit, but home captain Tom Lees somehow smothered the ball off the line and out for the corner, just after the half hour mark.
At the latter period’s mid-point Barkhuizen left Morgan Fox for dead with a pacy run down the right hand side, into the box before drilling the ball to the back post to where Callum Robinson was running, however, an outstretched leg from Hunt fired the ball from a yard out against the post. The ball was recycled to Darnell Fisher on the right, who dinked over a cross back to Barkhuizen six yards out, but he directed his header inches past the right hand post.
A double change on 70 minutes saw Daniel Johnson and Moult on for Gallagher and Maguire and the two combined within 90 seconds to give the former Motherwell man his first goal for the club. Johnson drove forward, exchanging a one-two with Callum Robinson, before driving to the left hand byline and caressing the ball into the six yard box for PNE’s No.21 to slide home from close range.
This seemed to give the away side further impetus as they drove forward looking to level the game, but with the match stretched the Owls took advantage in injury time, as firstly Nuhiu curled an effort from the right hand corner of the penalty area into the top left hand corner and then in the final seconds substitute Forestieri curled a free kick from the edge of the ‘D’ into the bottom right hand corner of the goal.
These two goals gave an unfair reflection to the scoreline, in a game where for large parts the yellow-clad visitors had dominated the game, the possession and the chances, but in the end their 12-game unbeaten away run came to an end, in the knowledge there is a quick turnaround and chance to put the result behind them on Easter Monday.
Sheffield Wednesday line-up: Wildsmith, Hunt (Palmer, 75), Fox, Bannan (Forestieri, 78), Lees (c), Nuhiu, Reach, Hutchinson (Joao, 46), Pelupessy, Pudil, Vanancio. Subs not used: Dawson, Jones, Rhodes, Butterfield.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Fisher (Harrop, 78), Earl, Pearson, Huntington, Davies, Robinson, Gallagher (Johnson, 70), Maguire (Moult, 70), Browne, Barkhuizen. Subs not used: Mawell, Cunningham, Clarke, Bodin.
Attendance: 26,588 (1,495 PNE fans)
Referee: Mr T Robinson