Preston 0-1 Derby: Tom Lawrence earns long-awaited win for Rams
By Simeon Gholam
Last Updated: 02/04/18 4:23pm
Tom Lawrence's free-kick was the difference as Derby boosted their play-off hopes with a long-awaited 1-0 win at Preston on Easter Monday.
Derby had previously gone two months without a win to drop from automatic promotion contention to a risk of missing out on the top six, and there were just two points between themselves and Preston, in 10th, heading into the game at Deepdale.
But Lawrence's second-half free-kick, after Alan Browne had missed a first-half penalty for North End, settled the game and boosted Gary Rowett's side ahead of the run-in.
Both sides lost 4-1 on Good Friday and both managers made changes. Alex Neil threw Chris Maxwell and Greg Cunningham in, while Gary Rowett made five changes to his Derby side.
Preston, meanwhile, could have climbed into the play-off places with a victory, and would have stayed there if other results went their way on Monday, but instead Alex Neil's side have seen their top-six hopes slip slightly away from their grasp.
Preston dominated the first half but didn't create too many clear-cut chances aside from their penalty, which was awarded after 36 minutes when Browne was bundled over by Andre Wisdom in the box, but the midfielder's resulting attempt clipped the outside of the post and rolled wide.
That miss proved incredibly costly for Preston as Derby took the lead after 53 minutes. It was Lawrence who won the free-kick from which he scored, driving home a 25-yard effort which goalkeeper Chris Maxwell got a touch to but couldn't steer away from his bottom corner.
Preston would have two great chances to level the game in the closing stages as loose balls fell to Paul Huntington and Paul Gallagher in the box, but both fired over the bar.
Preston: Maxwell (4), Fisher (6), Davies (6), Huntington (6), Cunningham (6), Pearson (5), Gallagher (7), Barkhuizen (6), Browne (5), Robinson (6), Maguire (6)
Subs: Johnson (n/a), Bodin (n/a), Moult (n/a)
Derby: Carson (6), Wisdom (5), Davies (7), Pearce (7), Baird (6), Huddlestone (8), Ledley (6), Lawrence (8), Weimann (6), Vydra (5), Nugent (7)
Subs: Palmer (n/a), Hanson (n/a), Jerome (n/a)
Man of the match: Tom Huddlestone
Man of the match - Tom Huddlestone
Huddlestone missed the 4-1 defeat against Sunderland on Good Friday, and he showed how important he is to this Derby side with an assured display in midfield at Deepdale.
Alex Neil: "Alan Browne is devastated because he thinks he's let people down but the fact is without him, we would not be in the position we are in - I told him that. The players are gutted; we are all disappointed that we didn't show that little bit of quality at times but I couldn't have asked for much more from them."
Gary Rowett: "I couldn't give a monkey's if it didn't look attractive. We tried to look attractive (against Sunderland) and ended up losing to the bottom team in the league. Hopefully this will give the players that little bit of breathing space to go and play with a bit more confidence. Psychologically, it was a huge result."
Both sides are in Sky Bet Championship action again at 3pm on Saturday. Derby host Bolton and Preston head to Reading.