Preston North End bowed out of the FA Cup after going down to a narrow defeat to Millwall at the New Den.
Liam Feeney’s deflected 31st minute gave the Championship hosts their victory and put them in the hat for Sunday’s fourth round draw.
After being second best for the first half, North End put in a much stronger performance after the interval, helped by a double substitution and change of formation.
But chances were at a premium, the best opening falling the way of Stuart Beavon and Graham Cummins in the last five minutes.
Graham Westley had been forced into two changes to the North End side.
Both were in the centre of defence, with Bailey Wright ruled out because of concussion and Luke Foster cup-tied having played for Matlock in an earlier round of the competition.
Chris Robertson and Paul Huntington filled the centre-half roles in their absence.
The game’s first chance fell Millwall’s way in the fourth minute, Shane Lowry’s 20-yard shot kicking-off the turf and forcing Steve Simonsen to palm it past the post.
Robertson got a sight of goal when he was first to a Shane Cansdell-Sherriff free-kick, but he put his header harmlessly wide.
Twice in a matter of moments Darius Henderson was a whisker away from giving Millwall the lead.
Simonsen was at full stretch to tip his 20th minute header from a James Henry cross round the post.
Then after the resulting corner was cleared out of the box, Henderson drilled in a shot which bounced off the turf and up against the underside of the bar.
PNE themselves went close shortly after that double let-off, Cansdell-Sherriff’s ball into the box flicked on by Jack King into the path of Huntington who turned and volleyed over the top from eight yards.
The Lions nosed in front just after the half hour mark, Adam Smith finding room down the right and cutting the ball back into the middle.
It travelled to across the box to Feeney whose low first-time shot took a deflection and beat Simonsen.
With 34 minutes on the watch, Todd Kane got to a David Buchanan cross a split second before keeper David Forte but could only loop a header wide.
And in PNE’s next attack, Beavon’s run carried him into the box only for the front man to drag a low angled shot beyond the back stick.
Huntington kicked off the line after a shot from Josh Wright hit Dany N’Guessan and rolled goalwards.
Three minutes before the interval, Kane’s deep cross from the right was headed back into the middle by King but Wroe couldn’t keep his shot down and hammered over.
In the 44th minute, Simonsen was quick off his line to dive at the feet of N’Guessan as he homed in on Smith’s pass into the box.
At the interval, Joel Byrom and David Amoo replaced Cansdell-Sherriff and Kane in a double change.
The switch saw former Lions player Amoo join Beavon and King up front, with Byrom on the left of a midfield three.
It needed a fine challenge from Buchanan to deny Henderson after he latched on to a ball over the top to run clear in the box six minutes in the 51st minute.
As Millwall pressed again, a low shot from Henderson was fingertipped behind by the diving Simonsen.
North End began to get more of a foothold in midfield, something which had been missing in the first half.
But as the second period reached its half-way stage they had precious little in terms of chances to show for that.
In the 68th minute, Buchanan’s shot from distance was handled by Smith two yards outside the box.
A free-kick routine from the training ground didn’t come to fruition though, John Welsh teeing up Wroe who fired his shot into the wall.
Simonsen was in the action in the 72nd minute, diving to glove away N’Guessan’s low shot from the edge of the area.
As time ticked on, Beavon’s corner from the left was met by Amoo but the substitute headed high over the bar.
PNE lost the services of John Mousinho with nine minutes left, the skipper clutching his right hamstring after pulling up suddenly as he chased a pass down the wing.
Beavon came so close to an 85th minute equaliser, his first-time shot from the edge of the box going inches wide, Amoo having carved out the chance with a weaving run.
Then Cummins forced a save out of Forde at his near post, the substitute having broken into the box from the left.
Millwall: Forte, A Smith, Osbourne, Beevers, Lowry, Henry, Wright, Abdou, Feeney (Batt 46), N’Guessan, Henderson (J Smith 86). Unused subs:Dunne, Racon, Marquis, Wilkinson, Taylor.
PNE: Simonsen, Mousinho (Cummins 81), Huntington, Robertson, Cansdell-Sherriff (Byrom 46), Kane (Amoo 46), Wroe, Welsh, Buchanan, King, Beavon. Unused subs: Procter, Beardsley, Hayhurst, Stuckmann.
Referee: Craig Pawson (South Yorkshire)
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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