Preston 0-1 Ipswich: North End dealt blow to play-off hopes
Last Updated: 24/02/18 8:13pm
Preston's play-off hopes were dealt a significant blow as Ipswich returned to winning ways with a 1-0 victory at Deepdale.
Mustapha Carayol scored the only goal of the game on his first start for the club to condemn Preston to their first defeat in eight Championship matches and only their second loss in their last 18 league games.
Victory ended a winless run of three matches for the Tractor Boys who have not have lost a league game against Preston since 2010.
Carayol should have given Ipswich the lead after eight minutes. The visitors broke from a Preston corner and Martyn Waghorn played Carayol through but the winger fired straight at Declan Rudd before somehow poking the rebound wide from six yards.
Preston began to trouble Ipswich with a succession of crosses into the area, the best chance coming after 18 minutes when Billy Bodin found Alan Browne who headed over unmarked from six yards.
But it was Mick McCarthy's side who took the lead after 21 minutes as Carayol made amends for his earlier miss. Preston full-back Calum Woods hesitated in clearing, allowing Carayol to pinch the ball and slide it past Rudd.
And Ipswich almost doubled the lead on the half-hour mark as Carayol found Waghorn unmarked eight yards out, but Browne denied the striker with a superb last-ditch block.
Dominic Iorfa then struck the crossbar for Ipswich from the angle of the six-yard box.
Preston boss Alex Neil had seen enough from his side, making a double substitution after just 37 minutes as Woods and Callum Robinson were hauled off for Josh Earl and Josh Harrop.
The hosts continued to struggle to get the ball forward but did manage to get a strike on target after 54 minutes as Browne's strike from distance was held by Bartosz Bialkowski.
And Neil's men remained confined to long-range efforts, Josh Earl cutting in from the right touchline after 71 minutes and firing an effort at goal from 25 yards that was easily held by Bialkowski.
But the Lilywhites began to find some joy down the flanks in pursuit of the equaliser and tested Bialkowski again six minutes later. Substitute Daryl Horgan whipped a cross for Tom Barkhuizen to guide a low header on target from eight yards.
But Ipswich held on to notch just their third win in their last 12 league games.
Alex Neil: "I don't think we played anywhere near the levels we can. I thought it was flat and we never really got going. I think how much we've demanded of the players and we've had three really tough fixtures which have taken a lot out of the players.
"I tried to spark something and if I'm honest it didn't work. I feared this was coming after looking at the players yesterday. They looked tired. I will say that they have performed superbly well for me since I've been here. I won't let one game today taint that."
Mick McCarthy: "I'm delighted for Mustapha Carayol to get his goal. He's had diarrhoea and sickness in the week. He could have had another 15 minutes but he'd run his race. I think that's a culmination of really good performances. We should have been more than one up at half-time.
"It's the Championship, I've never been anywhere where being tough and able to defend wasn't a valuable thing. There have been three good performances over the last week. Today we've played well and won."