DAN SHOCKS THE ‘BRAINLESS’ OWLS
NEW Preston manager Alex Neil thought his side were fully deserving of their victory over Sheffield Wednesday, claiming they were “better in every aspect.”
Daniel Johnson secured Preston’s first opening-day win since 2008 with a 79th-minute penalty in Neil’s first competitive game in charge following Simon Grayson’s departure for Sunderland.
It was the first time in the last four seasons that Sheffield Wednesday have failed to win their opening game and Neil said: “We were better in almost every aspect. We outplayed them and outfought them and we deserved to win the game.
“We can basically go and overrun teams because we have legs all over the pitch. Our energy, enthusiasm and quality at times was excellent.
“If they continue to play like that we’ll be fine. Our strength is that we have such a good team spirit, they work so hard for each other and we got what we deserved today.
“Notoriously in the last two seasons we’ve not started well so it’s pleasing to get three points on the board.”
The first chance came after halfan-hour in the form of a 25-yard free-kick for Preston’s Callum Robinson, but his effort drifted a couple of feet wide of the right-hand post.
Preston threatened again after 39 minutes through Sean Maguire, the new arrival from Cork . The diminutive striker twisted and turned inside the area before firing in a shot that almost caught Keiren Westwood out at his near post.
Preston, who finished 11th last season, were piling on the pressure and came close after 58 minutes when Maguire lead a counter attack before teeing up Robinson, who curled a shot inches wide of the far post from the left edge of the area.
Wednesday, who have fallen at the play-off final and semi-final stage in the last two seasons, had their first chance after 67 minutes when Chris Maxwell rushed from his goal but was beaten to the ball by Fernando Forestieri, whose header was harmlessly wide.
But four minutes changed the game in Preston’s favour. First Tommy Spurr’s header hit the bar after 76 minutes, then Robinson’s 18-yard strike was inches over the bar a minute later.
Jordan Hugill then surged into the area after 78 minutes and was upended by Alex Lees, with referee Tony Harrington pointing immediately to the spot. Johnson stepped up and sent Westwood the wrong way to secure all three points.
Sheffield Wednesday manager Carlos Carvalhal agreed his side were second best.
“We deserved to lose the game,” he said. “We were out of everything. We ran too much in the first half but with no brain.
“We had one or two chances, Preston had more than us so congratulations to Preston. No excuses about us, we must do much better to win games in the Championship and we must analyse this game to do better in the future.
“It is not a question of attitude. It was a collective problem, not an individual problem. We just didn’t play our football. We must do it completely different in the next game.
“We were out of the pressure, the positions to manage the ball and it was a bad game. I hope it’s because it is the first one.”
SPOT ON: Daniel Johnson scores from 12 yards, below, and celebrates Preston’s first opening-day win in nine years