Preston edge Blackburn in Lancashire derby
Preston kept their hopes of reaching the Sky Bet Championship play-offs alive with a 2-1 win over Blackburn in the Lancashire derby at Ewood Park.
Greg Cunningham’s first goal since February 2018 gave Alex Neil’s men the lead (19), before Liam Lindsay headed in from a corner to double the visitors’ advantage (43).
A penalty from Adam Armstrong in first-half stoppage-time reduced the arrears for Rovers (45+1), but despite introducing a host of attacking talent after the break – including Liverpool loanee Harvey Elliott – they were unable to force an equaliser.
North End move up to 10th as a result, six points off the top six ahead of the remainder of the weekend’s action, with Blackburn level on points but two places higher in eighth.
How Preston triumphed on derby day
Back in November, Blackburn had put three past Preston on their way to a first Lancashire derby win in five years and, after limiting the hosts in the first quarter of the return fixture, it took less than 20 minutes for the visitors to begin to get their own back.
A long ball upfield from North End goalkeeper Daniel Iversen was recycled by captain Alan Browne, who switched the ball to the unmarked Cunningham on the left flank. He took a touch and arrowed into the bottom-right corner with pure precision to net the opener.
They added a second shortly before the break when Lindsay escaped the grasp of Jarrad Branthwaite to head in Ryan Ledson’s corner but that only served to light a fire within Rovers, who pulled one back shortly after.
Referee David Webb initially waved away appeals when Sam Gallagher was brought down inside the area, though intervention from his assistant saw a spot-kick awarded and Armstrong made no mistake from 12 yards out.
Within seconds, the former Newcastle frontman was denied a quickfire second as Preston stopper Iversen scooped an effort away inside the six-yard box in spectacular fashion.
Second-half substitute Emil Riis drove into the penalty area inside the final 15 minutes and rode the challenge of Branthwaite before firing a tame effort into the arms of Thomas Kaminski, while Bradley Dack was denied a dramatic equaliser when his close-range finish was chalked off when he strayed offside.
In the final few minutes, Ched Evans’ outstretched leg took Brad Potts’ shot from 20 yards past a wrong-footed Kaminski, but that too was chalked off as the first-half goals ultimately proved decisive.
Man of the match – Ched Evans
Preston’s Alex Neil:
“Last week it was his first game and I thought he was excellent. Tonight, when you’ve got a proper focal point and someone who can lead the line and look after the ball, it’s vitally important. I thought his performance merited the man of the match award.”
What the managers said…
Blackburn’s Tony Mowbray: “We can’t be as bad as we were in the first half and expect to win a football match, really. There are no excuses. I’ve just said to them that we have to make better choices and better decisions. We played in the wrong areas and didn’t have enough men in forward areas. It wasn’t good enough.
“In the last half hour, we maybe should have got something from the game but though they were hanging on a bit, it wasn’t to be.”
Preston’s Alex Neil: “I thought the first half, in particular, was excellent. I thought our shape was great, I thought we worked it really well, I thought the defensive late were great and I felt we always looked a threat. I think the biggest disappointment is that when we conceded right before half-time; really we wanted to go in at 2-0. I’m not sure if it was a penalty.
“In the second half we had to dig in, we had to be resilient and defend well and I thought we did that. The most important thing is that we need to win the games and that’s another local derby where we’ve managed to chalk up another win, so I’m really pleased.”
Preston are next in action at 7pm on Tuesday February 16, when they host Watford at Deepdale, while Blackburn travel to Oakwell to take on Barnsley at 7.45pm the following evening. Both fixtures are live on Sky Sports Football Red Button.