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Brentford vs Preston North End. Sky Bet Championship.

Griffin Park.

Brentford 1

  • O Watkins (4th minute)

Preston North End 0

    Brentford 1-0 Preston: Hosts win to close on second-placed West Brom

    Report and highlights from the Sky Bet Championship clash at Griffin Park

    Dan Long

    Wednesday 15 July 2020 19:47, UK

    preview image 1:59
    Highlights of the Sky Bet Championship match between Brentford and Preston North End

    Brentford moved to within just a point of second-placed West Brom as Ollie Watkins' fourth-minute strike earned them a slender 1-0 victory over Preston.

    Watkins - who had played as a winger until the start of this season - connected with a smart flick from Emiliano Marcondes to fire a fierce volley past North End goalkeeper Declan Rudd early on, but though they battled incredibly hard, Alex Neil's men couldn't find a way through.

    Victory for the Bees - their eighth in a row - means the battle for automatic promotion will continue into the weekend, with current leaders Leeds unable to earn promotion after their Yorkshire derby with Barnsley at Elland Road on Thursday, live on Sky Sports Football.

    Preston's own play-off hopes are hanging by a thread with two games to play. They sit ninth, five points behind sixth-placed Cardiff.

    Eight on the spin for Thomas Frank's men

    Knowing that a win in potentially their penultimate fixture at Griffin Park would increase the intensity of the automatic promotion battle, Brentford forced the issue from the first whistle and struck inside five minutes, as they had done just days earlier in the 3-1 win at Derby.

    The build-up and finish were delightful in equal measure; Marcondes extended his purple patch of creativity since the restart by collecting a square ball and brilliantly flicking the ball through to Watkins, whose wicked volley caught Rudd off-guard and moved him above Aleksandar Mitrovic at the top of the Championship scoring charts.

    Brentford's Ollie Watkins (second right) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game against Preston
    Image: Brentford's Ollie Watkins (second right) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game against Preston

    With their own designs on a late dash for the play-offs, Preston made their presence known, with Tom Barkhuizen lively on either wing, and Darnell Fisher was denied an equaliser in stunning fashion, when Bees 'keeper David Raya dived to his right at full stretch to push a thunderous free-kick away that looked destined for the top left corner.

    More on this story

    The visitors made life extremely difficult for Brentford, unsettling them so they were unable to settle into a rhythm in a second half which boasted few clear-cut chances.

    Said Benrahma showed glimpses of the form that has seen him scored a remarkable six goals in his previously three appearances and sent several shots narrowly over the woodwork and into the empty Ealing Road terrace, but Brentford were able to hold onto a colossal three points and set up a tense final week of the Championship season.

    Man of the match - Christian Norgaard

    An unsung hero of Brentford's largely brilliant season to date, the Danish midfielder was happy to do the dirty work for his team-mates and though he was stifled in the first half, he dug in and enabled the back four to stay compact and earn another precious clean sheet.

    What the managers said...

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    Brentford boss Thomas Frank says he was delighted with his teams grit and determination as they grounded out a 1-0 win over Preston to keep their hopes of automatic promotion alive

    Brentford's Thomas Frank: "It's a privilege to be part of a team who is winning eight games straight. There's some that are more important and bigger wins and this one was one of them, definitely. I think it was a fair and square win. In the end, I just need to praise my defence. That's the single best area we've improved in this season.

    "I think I will watch the West Brom game on Friday but mainly because I'll be sitting on a bus heading to Stoke!

    Alex Neil believes his Preston side gave as good as they got in their narrow 1-0 defeat to Brentford and admitted that their dream of a play-off place can still come true.

    Preston's Alex Neil: "I think the frustration is that we knew, coming here, that it was going to be a tough match because Brentford are in great form. They are very open and wanted to make it an open game, but though we wanted to stifle that, your best laid plans go to waste when you concede that early.

    "I don't think that's it for the play-offs. As athletes and competitors, the lads will never give up. What we've got to do is win the next game, see what happens elsewhere and if we can take it to the last match, anything can happen."

    What's next?

    Both sides are next in action on Saturday July 18 for the penultimate round of Championship fixtures. Preston host Birmingham at Deepdale at 3pm, while Brentford travel to the Bet365 Stadium to take on Stoke, live on Sky Sports Football.

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