Report: Preston North End 2-1 Bristol City
Tuesday, March 6th 2018
City endured another miserable night at Deepdale as they slipped to a 2-1 defeat and saw Aden Flint red-carded.
Alan Browne lobbed the hosts in front after Hordur Magnusson’s weak clearance to lead at the break.
Famara Diédhiou headed the visitors level, but parity was only restored for two minutes before Sean Maguire struck the winner.
City pushed for a late equaliser as Bobby Reid was denied, but to make matters worse Flint was shown a straight red card for an off-the-ball incident in stoppage time.
Lee Johnson opted to make just one change to his starting line-up, with captain Bailey Wright being recalled on his old Deepdale stomping ground.
The Australian replaced Eros Pisano at right-back, who was being protected after playing for the first time in four months just three days earlier in the 4-0 thrashing of Sheffield Wednesday at Ashton Gate.
The home side enjoyed much of the early play, albeit with only long-range efforts from Billy Bodin – blocked by Korey Smith – and Paul Gallagher, straight at Frank Fielding from 30 yards, to show for their early endeavours.
City’s first foray into enemy territory saw Diédhiou feed the ball to an overlapping Jamie Paterson down the left and his driven cross was brilliantly cut out by Ben Davies in the middle with Bobby Reid looking to pounce.
Moments later a half-clearance from the home defence fell at the feet of Magnusson to shoot goalwards, but Declan Rudd was down quickly to save.
Magnusson was soon involved at the other end as Preston forged into a 20th minute lead. The Icelandic defender opted to clear his lines when the ball looked to be running through to an advanced Fielding.
It would have been fine had Magnusson connected firmly with his clearance, but the scuffed attempt dropped straight at the feet of Browne, whose eyes lit up with Fielding off his line. The Lilywhites midfielder lofted a shot back over City’s goalkeeper and into the unguarded net, despite Flint’s attempts to scamper back to clear.
Magnusson was looking to make amends soon after when Paul Huntington guided a header into the box, looking for home skipper Greg Cunningham, the ex-City left-back.
Cunningham scored against his former club in January 2016 to signal the end of Steve Cotterill's reign, but he was unable to find the net on this occasion due to Magnusson’s inch-perfect intervention.
Before the break Paterson nodded Josh Brownhill’s centre down into the area just in front of the onrushing Diédhiou and then, on the stroke of half-time, Magnusson lashed a long-ranger wide of the near post.
The visitors came out strongly for the second period, forcing three corners in quick succession. From the second of those flag kicks, Marlon Pack’s inswinging ball was headed down by Magnusson into the ground and Rudd scrambled across his goal to make a smart fingertip save.
However, Cunningham was soon causing a nuisance in the City penalty area, wriggling free to reach Gallagher’s powerful free kick into the box and execute a back header goalwards. Fielding reacted brilliantly, diving across to his left to tip the ball around his upright.
Pack fired wide from distance before Johnson opted to introduce Ryan Kent in place of Magnusson. It set about a chain of switches, with Wright partnering Flint in central defence. Brownhill moved to right-back, while Paterson came across to the right flank to allow the incoming Kent to take up position on the left.
City were finally level in the 67th minute as Reid – the hat-trick hero days earlier – provided the assist from the left-side of the penalty area. The Bristolian’s dipping cross was glanced past Rudd in a flash by the head of Diédhiou, right in front of the jubilant travelling supporters.
However, the joy was short-lived as Preston were back in front just two minutes later. Smith’s up and under presented possession to the hosts, who stormed forward with substitute Daniel Johnson sending fellow replacement Maguire away.
Smith chased back to try and deny Maguire, but the midfielder was left grounded by a quick change of direction and the Preston man kept his cool when it mattered to slot beyond Fielding.
The chances kept coming for City though, with Paterson passing up a great chance to level with 13 minutes left. Pouncing on a loose pass in midfield, the winger made an angled burst towards goal and raced into the area, only to slam his shot into the side-netting.
Moments later Brownhill teased a superb ball into the penalty area, picking out Reid eight yards from goal. The striker’s eyes must have lit up, with his 20th goal of the campaign beckoning, but Rudd produced a brilliant point-blank range stop to retain Preston’s one-goal advantage.
Tom Barkhuizen should have put the game to bed when Callum Robinson’s inswinging cross picked him out in the centre, but the striker sent a rising shot over the top.
Then Kent’s inswinging cross was inches away from being converted by Smith and in the ensuing aftermath Flint was given his marching orders, with a penalty area scuffle to follow.
Flint had raised an arm following provocation from his former teammate Cunningham, prompting the official to dismiss him for violent conduct.