Preston 3-0 Cardiff: Bluebirds knocked off top of the table
Last Updated: 12/09/17 10:50pm
Cardiff were knocked off the top of the Sky Bet Championship table after they were beaten 3-0 by Preston at Deepdale to end their unbeaten start.
A first-half free-kick from Josh Harrop was added to by second-half goals from Sean Maguire and a wonder strike from Alan Browne. Preston started well and top scorer Jordan Hugill forced a fine save from Neil Etheridge when he drove a left-footed shot across the keeper on 11 minutes.
The hosts were piling huge amounts of pressure on Cardiff and referee Oliver Langford twice turned down penalty appeals in a matter of seconds on the half hour. Joe Ralls had Cardiff's first effort on goal on 32 minutes and Preston were relieved after his deflected strike looped over Chris Maxwell's goal for a corner, which came to nothing.
Preston continued to knock on the door as Ben Davies' header from Harrop's corner on 36 minutes flashed narrowly wide and they got their reward on 38 minutes, as Harrop's free-kick from 26 yards evaded everyone and nestled into Etheridge's bottom left corner.
North End were flying; minutes later, Maguire flung himself at Josh Earl's cross but could only direct his effort straight at Etheridge who gathered at the second attempt.
Preston continued where they left off after the break, with Darnell Fisher shooting straight at Etheridge with the goal at his mercy on 53 minutes.
Cardiff boss Neil Warnock made two changes on 63 minutes to freshen his side up. The on-loan Liam Feeney replaced the anonymous Junior Hoilett and Lee Tomlin took the place of Loic Damour.
But it was to no avail as, on 70 minutes, North End doubled their lead when Maguire squeezed the ball between keeper and post for his second league goal of the season.
It had looked as though the summer signing - who scored his first English league goal on Saturday - had missed his chance to shoot but he finished past Etheridge to ease Preston's nerves.
It was game over with Browne's wonder goal on 78 minutes as the combative midfielder struck the ball sweetly from 50 yards out after Etheridge's poor clearance.
The Deepdale crowd rose in expectation as the Cardiff stopper backtracked but failed to delay the inevitable and tipped the ball into the net.
Alex Neil: "That was a really pleasing win and it was no more than we deserved. I thought we were the better side throughout the match; created the most chances against a team that hasn't lost all year and to be honest, are a good team.
"We kept them extremely quiet and I thought we did really well. We had chances prior to scoring the goals - it's not like we didn't have opportunities and we were fortunate. We had them under pressure and that incisiveness I've spoken about before at the top end of the pitch, I thought we did that better tonight, but we've still got a bit of work to do that."
Neil Warnock: "There's no excuse because the goals were terrible, weren't they? We had eight or nine not at the game today and the travelling we've done since Saturday was not a help. I can only say that as not being an excuse. I bet we've travelled more than any other team in the country; against Fulham, we got back at 10.30pm.
"Preparation hasn't been great but I said to the players, without making an excuse, we were second best all night, we don't have eight or nine missing. If we hadn't been undefeated, I would have three or four changes for the game. But we were undefeated and if you make changes and get beat, you get blasted."