Preston v Argyle


Preston North End 2
Holmes 1
Millar 26

Argyle 1
Hardie 61

Two first-half goals ultimately did the trick in a clash between two old friends, as Ryan Lowe’s Preston edged past Steven Schumacher’s Pilgrims.

The home side swept into a first-minute lead when Duane Holmes nodded in from close range and extended the advantage with a goal from the lively Liam Millar in a first period otherwise controlled by Argyle.

The Greens kept knocking on the door and it opened for Ryan Hardie on 61 minutes but, despite all the pressure, Argyle were unable to find the equaliser their performance deserved.

Argyle boss Schumacher made two changes from the 3-0 win over Blackburn Rovers, prior to the international break, with Mickel Miller and Luke Cundle replacing Joe Edwards and Adam Randell.

It was, however, a new face for the home side who made an instant impression, as debutant Millar delivered a fizzing cross, which was initially parried by Connor Hazard, but the lurking Holmes was in the right place to nod home the opener inside 38 seconds.

The Pilgrims responded to the early goal with impressive composure, Morgan Whittaker forcing a decent block after good approach play from Cundle, followed by another lovely counter that saw Hardie ruffling some home feathers.

Bali Mumba joined the action with a drilled cross turned around at the near post by goalkeeper Freddie Woodman, who was called into action again on 24 minutes, just about clawing away a low cross from Hardie after terrific skill by Finn Azaz to create the opening.

For all Argyle’s good play, Preston were the side to strike a second, and Canadian international Millar was once again the major thorn for the Greens, winning the ball in midfield before steering a delightful finish beyond Hazard.

Once again, the Pilgrims responded positively and were denied an equaliser by a superb Woodman save from the rampaging Kaine Keslery-Hayden to complete a frustrating first 45 minutes.

The interval had little impact on Argyle’s admirable tempo and Azaz profited from some terrific play by Cundle and Jordan Houghton, wearing the captain’s armband, but the final shot was curled inches wide.

Whittaker had a shot deflected over the bar, as the Pilgrims cranked up the pressure, forcing their hosts on to the back foot for long periods.

Finally, the reward arrived on the hour, Cundle neatly laying the ball into the path of Hardie for a typically assured finish.

Preston, taking inspiration from their visitors, responded to the setback with a swift attack of their own and a delightful cross was seemingly perfect for Milutin Osmajic to head in a third, but he was thwarted by a miraculous reflex save from Hazard.

Callum Wright for Miller was the first Pilgrim change but Preston were next to threaten, Brad Potts crashing the ball against the post before a terrific last-ditch challenge from Kesler-Hayden thwarted Millar.

Argyle threw on Randell, Dan Scarr, Tyreik Wright and Ben Waine in the desperate search for a leveller, and Randell immediately caused some mayhem, lobbing the ball over an advancing Woodman, only to be called back for a foul.

In the closing stages, Argyle threw everything at Preston, including a Tyreik Wright shot into the side-netting but the hosts held on for all three points.

Preston: 1 Freddie Woodman; 6 Liam Lindsay, 8 Alan Browne (capt) (10 Mads Frokjaer H-T), 13 Ali McCann, 14 Jordan Storey, 16 Andrew Hughes (26 Jack Whatmough 63), 18 Ryan Ledson (4 Ben Whiteman 60), 23 Liam Millar, 25 Duane Holmes, 28 Milutin Osmajic (11 Robbie Brady 75), 44 Brad Potts. Substitutes (not used): 21 Dai Cornell (gk), 3 Greg Cunningham, 17 Layton Stewart, 20 Ben Woodburn, 33 Kian Best.

Booked: Ledson 21, Holmes 32

Argyle: 21 Conor Hazard (gk); 2 Bali Mumba, 4 Jordan Houghton (capt) (23 Ben Waine 85), 5 Julio Pleguezuelo (6 Dan Scarr 85), 9 Ryan Hardie, 10 Morgan Whittaker (19 Tyreik Wright 85), 14 Mickel Miller (11 Callum Wright 68), 17 Lewis Gibson, 18 Finn Azaz, 28 Luke Cundle (20 Adam Randell 73), 29 Kaine Kesler-Hayden. Substitutes (not used): 25 Callum Burton (gk), 7 Matt Butcher, 8 Joe Edwards, 16 Lewis Warrington.

Booked: Miller 19

Referee: Gavin Ward

Attendance: 17,542