Preston 1-0 Sheffield Wednesday: Tony Pulis’ first game in charge of the Owls ends in defeat as Tom Barkhuizen nets winner for Alex Neil’s side after early red card for Josh Windass
- Sheffield Wednesday started poorly with Josh Windass sent off after 17 minutes
- Tony Pulis’ struggling side are second from bottom in the Championship table
- Preston’s Tom Barkhuizen scored the only goal of the game just after half time
- The Owls have now only scored six goals so far in their 12 Championship fixtures
This part of Lancashire has not been a happy place for Sheffield Wednesday over the years, and Tony Pulis was powerless to end their wretched run of results on his return to management.
Wednesday had not won any of their previous 17 second-tier visits here, stretching back to the 1940s, and confirmation that particular statistic would not be changing on Pulis’ debut came early on when Josh Windass was dismissed for a kung-fu lunge that made contact with Joe Rafferty’s chest.
Not that Preston are particularly fond of Deepdale, either. Alex Neil’s side had lost all five of their opening Championship fixtures on home soil.
New Sheffield Wednesday boss Tony Pulis lost his first game in charge at Preston North End
But they did not pass up the opportunity of playing against 10 men for 73 minutes, earning three points courtesy of the contest’s sole shot on target – Tom Barkhuizen’s stunning volley immediately after the re-start.
The goal was in part down to Keiren Westwood, the most significant of four changes made by Pulis in his first assignment since replacing Garry Monk at the helm of the Yorkshire club.
It was exactly a year ago this weekend since the Republic of Ireland international goalkeeper’s last appearance for the club. So far into anonymity had the 36-year-old fallen under Monk that he didn’t even merit a squad number at the start of this season and had been training with Wednesday’s Under-23 team.
Ring-rustiness was to be expected in the circumstances and the lack of power in his 48th-minute punch allowed Barkhuizen to swivel and pick his spot from 15 yards.
Preston forward Tom Barkhuizen (centre) scored the only goal of the game just after half time
‘Keiren said his back foot slipped, it was a mistake and he was big enough to hold his hands up and admit it,’ revealed Pulis.
Wednesday sit second bottom in the division, partly due to their six-point deduction and partly due to a woeful lack of threat in the final third. They scored just six in 11 league outings under Monk this season and saw their attacking prowess reduced further when
Windass – whose enthusiasm in leading the line included an audacious early attempt to catch out Declan Rudd from 35 yards –
connected with Rafferty’s torso in competing for a high ball in the 17th minute.
‘The whole game plan we had worked on all week went out the window at that point,’ bemoaned Pulis, of Wednesday’s fourth red card of the season.
It left him to tinker further with the team’s shape, having opted for a tactical switch from the back-three system of Monk’s final days to a 4-5-1.
Wednesday striker Josh Windass was dismissed after a high challenge on Joe Rafferty
The Owls played with ten men for most of the game after Windass was sent off after 17 minutes
The Owls bore all the recognisable traits of a Pulis team: cohesion, organisation and industry. And they denied a Preston team without captain Alan Browne due to a positive Covid-19 test any other clear-cut chances until Julian Borner kicked off the line in the 90th minute.
‘To be fair to Tony Pulis his teams are always well organised and so even when they go down to 10 men it’s not easy,’ said Preston assistant manager Frankie McAvoy.
Equally, though, they lacked the creative spark necessary to send them back over the Pennines with a point.
A prospect they would nevertheless have been contemplating had a more offensively-minded player than Moses Odubajo found themselves free at the far post 13 minutes into the second period.