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14:40 31st March 2012

Owls stay on track

Sheffield Wednesday remain firmly in the race for automatic promotion after Saturday's 2-0 win over Preston.

Two goals from Gary Madine after half time settled the lunchtime kick-off which was live on Sky Sports.

It was a thoroughly deserved win for the Owls who have now picked up 16 points from a possible 18 under manager Dave Jones.

The Wednesday boss made one change to the starting line-up from last weekend's 1-0 success over Leyton Orient, opting to start with Newcastle loan striker Nile Ranger.

Jermaine Johnson and Michail Antonio were in superb form seven days ago at the Matchroom Stadium and the duo picked up where they left off at Hillsborough.

Wednesday's first attack saw Antonio drive at the Preston defence before squaring for JJ who struck first time inches past the post from 20 yards.

The Owls began to settle into their stride early in the contest and came close to taking the lead in the strangest of circumstances after 14 minutes.

Reda Johnson's miss-hit cross from 45 yards seemed destined for the top corner of the Leppings Lane net but drifted just wide, much to the relief of Lilywhites keeper Thorsten Stuckmann.

At the midway point of the first period the game had become a little stop-start and lacked any real fluency.

Owls v Preston

But the Owls looked by far the likelier team to break the deadlock and carved another opening ten minutes before the break.

Ranger did well in midfield to shrug off his marker before sending Antonio through on goal, whose centre was intercepted by Chris Robertson, preventing Madine from finishing into an empty net.

JJ then forced a diving stop from Stuckmann before Antonio burst inside the area to square for Chris Lines but the midfielder's first time strike flew over the bar which brought a close to the first half.

The all-important first goal came minutes after the restart as Madine fired the Owls ahead.

Lines did well to latch onto a loose ball in midfield before finding Madine on the right of the area. The striker had it all to do, though, with the ball bouncing and the angle against him but blasted home a fierce drive in front of the Kop.

The goal had given the Owls a visible boost as JJ forced an unorthodox save from Stuckmann, who managed to direct the winger's powerful shot around the post.

The situation deteriorated for North End as Madine doubled Wednesday's lead on 64 minutes.

Owls v Preston

Antonio's trademark long throw was met with a firm header by Madine that nestled into the back of Stuckmann's net.

And Madine had the chance for his hat-trick just passed the 70 minute mark. Ranger flicked on Reda Johnson's long free kick but Madine's side-footed strike finished agonisingly over the bar.

It was all Wednesday in the second period and the 2-0 scoreline, if anything, flattered Preston who had been unable to contain the Owls.

Madine then nodded over the bar from Antonio's cross before the two-goal striker was replaced by Ryan Lowe with just minutes left on the clock.

Owls: Bywater, Buxton, R Jones, Llera, R Johnson, Antonio, Semedo, Lines, J Johnson (Treacy 90), Madine (Lowe 87), Ranger

Substitutes: Weaver, Batth, O'Grady

Preston: Stuckmann, Robertson, Morgan, Coutts, Parry, Wright, Ehmer, Proctor (Holroyd 85), Cummins (Hume 62), Hunt, Brown (Aneke 62)

Substitutes: Arestidou, Gray

    Data provided by Press Association


    For the first 50 years of their existence, England played their home matches all around the country.