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Preston North End vs Fulham. Sky Bet Championship.

DeepdaleAttendance10,093.

Preston North End 2

  • S Maguire (23rd minute)
  • J Rafferty (sent off 45th minute)
  • D Nugent (52nd minute)

Fulham 1

  • D Odoi (sent off 28th minute)
  • A Mitrovic (81st minute)

Preston 2-1 Fulham: David Nugent scores as North End return to Championship top six

Report and highlights from the Sky Bet Championship clash at Deepdale

preview image 2:14
Highlights of the Sky Bet Championship clash between Preston North End and Fulham

Preston moved back into the Sky Bet Championship play-off places with a 2-1 win over Fulham at Deepdale in a game that saw both sides end with 10 men.

Sean Maguire struck the opener with North End's first goal in five games (23), and that sparked the game into life; Denis Odoi was sent off for recklessly jumping into Patrick Bauer (28), and Joe Rafferty's lunge on Joe Bryan was met by the same punishment (45).

The hosts doubled their lead shortly after the break when David Nugent tapped home his first goal since returning to the club in the summer (52), before Aleksandar Mitrovic struck a late consolation (81).

Victory for Alex Neil's men ends a run of four straight defeats, leaving them sixth in the table; Fulham's second loss in a row sees them now trail second-place West Brom by 10 points.

How Preston recovered from their recent slump

It had been a drizzly, miserable day in Lancashire prior to kick-off and fans in the sparsely-populated stands at Deepdale were treated to a flat opening 20 minutes, devoid of chances for either side.

Team news

For the hosts, Patrick Bauer, Billy Bodin and David Nugent started ahead of Jordan Storey, Tom Barkhuizen and Jayden Stockley as Alex Neil looked to arrest an alarming four-match losing streak.

Fulham boss Scott Parker made two changes to the side that lost 2-1 to Bristol City last time out, with Aboubakar Kamara and Cyrus Christie starting in place of Joe Bryan and Tom Cairney, the latter of whom missed out through illness.

Midway through the half, Preston took the lead. Billy Bodin's corner from the left-hand side floated over to the far post, where Maguire escaped the clutches of Alfie Mawson and Aboubakar Kamara, swivelled 180 degrees, and lashed a shot past Marek Rodak.

Fulham were then, needlessly, reduced to 10 men after Bauer felt the full force of Odoi's shoulder in his face, but the numerical disadvantage lasted all of 17 minutes as Rafferty cynically brought Bryan down on halfway.

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The absence of Tom Cairney was evident after the break, particularly after Nugent - who played for Preston between 2005 and 2007 - tapped home after getting the better of Mawson in an aerial duel inside the six-yard box.

Image: Alex Neil's Preston had lost their last four Championship fixtures in succession

However, the visitors did manage to fashion some late chances. Stefan Johansen saw a curling shot cannon off the underside of the bar, before Mitrovic set up a tense finale when he pulled one back with a deflected shot from the edge of the box.

Their subsequent efforts were futile, but a smart save from second half substitute Tom Barkhuizen by Rodak prevented it from getting any worse.

Man of the match - Paul Huntington

Heading into the game on the dreadful run of form Preston were in, facing Aleksandar Mitrovic was likely to be a daunting prospect for Huntington, but he and Patrick Bauer worked effortlessly to keep the frontman at bay.

First to every ball into the box, the defender did well to restrict his opponent's openings, though he could do little to stop Mitrovic when the inevitable goal did come. Commentator Jonathan Oakes joked that he was close to winning the award in the recent defeat to West Brom, but there's no doubt it was his on this occasion.

What the managers said...

Preston's Alex Neil: "Football at this level is fine margins. We've had chances against West Brom, we didn't take them, we got punished. Same as Saturday against QPR. I think tonight, although we took two, we probably had another two or three really good chances in the second half to finish it off.

1:49
Alex Neil says fine margins were the difference between Preston's win over Fulham and their recent losses against West Brom and QPR

"But Fulham are a good team. The one thing I will say is…when you go down to 10 men each, that pitch becomes massive and it's a bit like a basketball game. I thought it was an entertaining game, a lot of chances both ends and just, thankfully, we came out the right end."

Fulham's Scott Parker: "We certainly didn't defend the long ball that well; every long ball that went up caused us a problem. They were sloppy goals, defensively, and then on the flip side of that we get into very good positions, we get to the edge of their box really well, but we lacked quality in those areas.

"At both ends of the pitch tonight we just weren't good enough, to be honest with you."

What's next?

Preston host Luton at Deepdale at 3pm on Saturday afternoon, with Fulham travelling to west London rivals Brentford for their final west London derby at Griffin Park. That game also gets underway at 3pm.

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