A superb volley from Tom Barkhuizen gave the Lilywhites their first home win of the season, defeating Tony Pulis’ Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 in his first game in charge.
The winger struck with his left foot just after half-time to give Alex Neil’s side the three points against the ten men Owls, who saw Josh Windass sent off for a reckless high tackle on Joe Rafferty after just 17 minutes.
Barkhuizen was one of two changes, with he and Patrick Bauer returning to the side in place of Alan Browne and Jordan Storey for the home side.
After a tentative opening, amidst the artificial crowd noise that had been introduced, the hosts started to get on top and a trio of corners on the quarter of hour mark almost brought an opener; Rafferty’s delivery from the right headed down by Bauer, the ball breaking to Ryan Ledson, who saw his shot blocked by Tom Lees.
The red card came soon after, with Windass giving referee David Webb no option, with a high boot around the upper chest of left back Rafferty.
However, despite making the correct decision with this, there were a lot of questions seven minutes before half-time as to why PNE weren’t awarded a penalty. Scott Sinclair chopped back inside Liam Palmer in the left corner of the penalty area and was brought down, but the huge shouts were oddly waved away.
At the interval the manager made two changes to his side, Paul Gallagher and Jayden Stockley replacing Potts and Rafferty, with a switch to three at the back and it paid immediate divdends.
Ledson delivered a ball into the area and, under pressure from Stockley, Keiren Westwood punched the ball out only as far as Barkhuizen on the edge of the penalty area, just to the left of the ‘D’. The No.29 connected sweetly with a left foot volley that flew back through a crowd into the bottom right-hand corner of the Town End goal, giving Westwood no chance.
The game was then something the Lilywhites could control the tempo of and they did just that. Ben Pearson and Sean Maguire also added to the game and with 11 minutes to go, some great play around the box saw Barkhuizen link up with Pearson to set up Daniel Johnson, who curled a left-foot shot narrowly wide of the right-hand upright.
With the Owls opening up slightly, it meant they were susceptible to the counter and in the closing minutes there were two late chances for a second.
Firstly, Barkhuizen was sent though with four minuets left, but down by Joost Van Aken, who was lucky not be receive Wednesday’s second red of the game – Gallagher firing the resulting free kick past a flatfooted Westwood, but onto roof of bar when going for top right corner.
And in injury time, Pearson was sent away by Sinclair down the left, before putting a great ball in for Barkhuizen, who, in turn, flicked the ball across for Maguire, but it cleared off his foot for a throw in by Julian Bӧrner and the final whistle soon followed.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Fisher, Rafferty (Stockley, 46) Ledson (Pearson, 72), Bauer, Huntington, Barkhuizen, Potts (Gallagher, 46), Riis (Maguire, 71), Johnson, Sinclair. Subs not used: Ripley, Earl, Bayliss, Storey, O’Reilly.
Sheffield Wednesday line-up: Westwood, Palmer, Van Aken, Paterson (Brown, 78), Bannan (c), Reach, Borner, Lees, Windass, Luongo (Pelupessy, 62), Odubajo (Rhodes, 74). Subs not used: Wildsmith, Penney, Dele-Bashiru, Shaw, Hunt, Kachunga.
Referee: Mr D Webb