Sheffield Wednesday moved into the play-off places after a fiery 2-1 victory over Preston North End. Jermaine Beckford and Eoin Doyle were sent off for fighting each other in stoppage time, twenty minutes after Fernando Forestieri received his marching orders.
Three straight red cards in off the ball incidents for both sides disguised an incredibly entertaining game performance wise. After Forestieri put Wednesday in-front in the first half Steven Fletcher doubled the Owls lead when he converted a second half penalty for the home side. Doyle then pulled a goal back before Preston themselves went down to nine men.
Simon Grayson said: “Both players are an embarrassment to the supporters of the club. In my thirty years in management I have never seen anything like that.
“Of course, we will look at the referees report to see if we can appeal anything but no doubt both players (Beckford and Doyle) will be reprimanded by the club.”
The Owls suffered two key injuries in the first half when Ross Wallace and Glenn Loovens limped off but Carlos Carvalhal’s side hung on for a vital three points.
After last week’s 2-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers Carvalhal picked an unchanged side, while Grayson made one change, and brought in Alan Browne for Marnick Vermijl.
Preston’s form going into the game showed a team united in defence, they had lost just one out of their last ten league games, but Wednesday’s firepower was evident.
An early chance for Forestieri set the tone for the afternoon, but he shot straight at visiting goalkeeper Chris Maxwell. Two minutes later a valiant block on the line by Alex Baptiste denied Wednesday’s striker again but he would soon get his revenge – a scuffed Adam Reach shot bounced into his path to head the ball into the net.
The response by the Lilywhites was nearly emphatic. After winning the ball on the edge of the Wednesday box Callum Robinson found space and scathed the post with his 25-yard strike.
Reach, lively on the left, advanced further up the pitch as the home side’s confidence grew, his second shot of the game was well blocked by Bailey Wright at the near post.
Preston’s most dangerous opportunities emerged from set pieces. A wicked delivery from Daniel Johnson seemingly fooled the home defence but Carvalhal’s side were fortunate that Jordan Hugill’s volley nearly bounced off the roof.
The Owls boss was forced into two early changes though, as Wallace and Loovens were replaced by Will Buckley and David Jones respectively, when both limped off.
Neat play from Reach and Lucas Joao maintained Wednesday’s high intensity, but when the former laid the ball off to the right Jack Hunt blasted his wild shot wide of the goal.
Then both sides wasted golden opportunities. Firstly, Preston’s Aiden McGeady had a timid effort that bounced off Westwood after the winger cut in from the left, before Wednesday charged forward, leaving Buckley with his head in his hands after managing to miss a header from just four yards out.
Grayson made two changes at half-time in an attempt to change the dynamics of the game. On came Beckford, back from a one month thigh injury, for Browne and Vermijl for McGeady. An early free-kick in the second half, fired over from Daniel Johnson, emphasised Preston’s will to equalise quickly.
Boos from the home fans were common towards referee Scott Duncan, and when Buckley’s nod was disallowed for offside it did nothing to soften their mood. It in fact resulted in a myriad of flashlights waved by the home fans in protest.
Suddenly the voices of dissent towards the officials grew even louder. An off the ball tussle between Forestieri and Beckford seemed harmless but the linesman noted that the Wednesday striker raised his hands towards Lilywhites midfielder Ben Pearson and was subsequently given a straight red card.
After Carvalhal made his last change, as the experienced Steven Fletcher replaced Lucas Joao, Wednesday were awarded a penalty. Buckley raced clear of the defence with a superb touch from a long looping ball but Maxwell brought him down inside the area. Fletcher had only been on the field for five minutes but calmly sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to double the Owls lead.
In an attempt to get back into the game Grayson brought on Doyle for Alex Baptiste, a miraculous attacking move which resulted in an immediate goal when Doyle scored with his first touch.
Tension from the away side boiled over as they looked to equalise and resulted in a moment of madness from Doyle and Beckford. After a poor ball from Doyle, Preston’s number ten then raced over and held his neck. Both were sent off.
Much to the delight of the home fans, who subsequently waved both players off the pitch, Wednesday held on to move into the play-off places. For Preston, the repercussions of on-field actions have just started.
Sheffield Wednesday: Keiren Westwood, Kieran Lee, Adam Reach, Glenn Loovens (David Jones, 35); Tom Lees; Lucas Joao (Steven Fletcher, 74); Sam Hutchinson; Jack Hunt; Ross Wallace (Will Buckley, 27); Barry Bannan, Fernando Forestieri.
Subs not used: Cameron Dawson, Liam Palmer, Daniel Pudil, Atdhe Nuhiu.
Preston North End: Chris Maxwell; Greg Cunningham; Ben Pearson; Tom Clarke; Bailey Wright; Alan Browne (Marnick Vermijl, 45); Daniel Johnson; Aiden McGeady (Jermaine Beckford, 45); Jordan Hugill; Alex Baptiste (Eoin Doyle, 81); Callum Robinson.
Subs not used: Anders Lindegaard, Simon Makienock, Ben Pringle, Paul Huntington.
Red Cards: Fernando Forestieri (64), Jermaine Beckford (90), Eoin Doyle (90)
Yellow cards: Kieran Lee
Referee: Scott Duncan
Assistant referees: Christopher Akers, Nick Hopton
Fourth official: Eddie Ilderton