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Report: Preston North End 5-0 Bristol City (April 2017)

City suffered a harrowing night in Lancashire as a second-half collapse condemned the club to its biggest defeat for five and a half years.

Trailing by a solitary goal at the interval, there was plenty of time for the visitors to bounce back and earn a morale-boosting result on the road.

But instead City fell apart, conceding four times in 21 minutes, in a result that doubled their goal difference to minus ten.

Tom Barkhuizen, Aiden McGeady, Tom Clarke and a brace for ex-City loanee Callum Robinson did the damage for a buoyant home team still harbouring hopes of a play-off place.

Lee Johnson made one enforced change to his side following Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Brentford.

After losing Gary O’Neil to injury in the second half at Griffin Park, the head coach announced the experienced midfielder would miss “three to four weeks” with a hamstring tear.

In stepped Jens Hegeler to fill O’Neil’s boots, making his first start for six weeks.

Meanwhile, on his first return to Deepdale, Bailey Wright was the victim of the Preston boo boys in a game that started in lively fashion at both ends.

Jordan Hugill blazed over for the hosts before Frank Fielding parried Paul Gallagher’s speculative long-range shot behind for a corner.

At the other end, Tammy Abraham won a race with Preston keeper Chris Maxwell, who rushed well outside his penalty area before sliding in and catching City’s top scorer near the left touchline for a deserved booking.

Then Abraham burst clear again, this time turning his back on goal as defenders retreated, teeing up David Cotterill for a first-time strike over the top.

But it was the home team who spurned the best chance to break the deadlock after 12 minutes.

When Robinson ran into the box and cut the ball back for McGeady, City were exposed, but thankfully Fielding was in the right place to deny the Irishman with a vital one-handed save.

City had been more than a match for their hosts, but were unable to trouble the Preston defence from a number of set-pieces before the Lilywhites edged in front on 25 minutes.

Again McGeady and Robinson were involved, as the former City loanee was given time to turn in the box and pick out another team-mate – this time Barkhuizen, whose low shot from 12 yards beat Fielding down to his right.

There would have been nothing quite like a Wright equaliser to silence the natives, and the defender swivelled sharply before letting fly with his left foot to send Maxwell sprawling to his left to make an important stop from another dead-ball situation.

City had further sniffs, as Abraham took a Joe Bryan cross on his chest only to be thwarted by some last-ditch defending, before Lee Tomlin claimed a penalty under a clumsy challenge but received only the jeers of the home fans for his troubles.

Johnson’s men were still very much in the contest, but their hopes of a result on the road were hanging by a thread within seconds of the restart when Aden Flint sent Robinson crashing to earth and McGeady dispatched the spot-kick with just enough power to beat Fielding, who did get a touch on the way.

Things were going from bad to worse for City, and two became three when Gallagher’s wide free kick was powered into the net by a header from Clarke.

Johnson responded with a double substitution and change in formation, as Hordur Magnusson and Aaron Wilbraham replaced Marlon Pack and Callum O’Dowda, with City switching to 3-4-1-2.

A brief flurry followed. Hegeler headed over from a Cotterill set-piece, while Bryan surged into the box and fired in a low cross that just arrived at Wilbraham’s feet too quickly for him to divert the chance on target from close range.

They were chances City had to take. Soon after it was 4-0, as Magnusson slipped to allow Hugill to bear down on goal and unselfishly square the ball for Robinson to tap in.

Three minutes later the visitors were staring down the barrel of their biggest defeat since 2011, with Robinson again on target as he reacted quickest to turn in McGeady’s cross from a short corner.

City kept plugging away in search of a goal back, but the game was long since over.

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