Preston North End’s dreadful form at Deepdale continued as they went down to defeat to Walsall.
It was their ninth home league game without a win, a run stretching back to the end of September, and never did they look like breaking that sequence as they were out-played by the Saddlers.
They were 2-0 down by half time as Fabian Brandy and Paul Downing found the net far too easily for the visitors.
James Baxendale added a third goal 11 minutes into the second half with a fine finish which underlined the visitors’ dominance.
Bailey Wright’s consolation deep into stoppage time did little more than put a thin coat of gloss on the
Booing accompanied the final whistle, the PNE fans not holding back with their views on what they’d just witnessed.
North End could point to being denied a stonewall penalty at 0-0 when Joe Garner was pushed in the back as he went to meet a Stuart Beavon cross.
But the manner in which they folded after that was poor, Walsall bossing the midfield and looking dangerous everytime they went forward.
Thorsten Stuckmann was in action early, making two saves inside the opening five minutes of the contest.
Malvind Benning’s strong run took him down Walsall’s left, his low cross finding Will Grigg in the box.
Grigg turned and fired goalwards, Stuckmann diving to tip the shot round the near post and into the side-netting.
Sam Mantom took the resulting corner, Andy Butler meeting it with a powerful header which Stuckmann gloved over at full stretch.
Persistence from Nicky Wroe saw him shrug off two challenges in the Saddlers box, but off balance he blazed his effort over the bar from a tight angle.
North End could feel hard done by that they weren’t awarded a penalty in the 16th minute, Garner having his shirt tugged as he moved to meet Beavon’s cross.
Referee Carl Boyeson looked across at his linesman on the Pavilion Stand side for help before waving play on.
Within two minutes of that appeal Walsall went ahead, Grigg getting in behind the PNE defence down the inside-left channel.
He sped into the box and crossed low into the middle, Brandy stepping forward to apply the finish from close range.
Wroe wasn’t far away from grabbing a quick equaliser, the midfielder’s low drive from 25 yards palmed behind by Ian McLoughlin.
There was a let-off for PNE in the 28th minute when a ball over the top put Grigg in the clear.
The striker’s lob cleared Stuckmann but thankfully for the hosts bounced just wide of the target.
Walsall’s second goal came seven minutes before the interval, a free-kick into the Preston box finding Grigg who got his angles all wrong and actually headed the ball out of the box.
But the loose ball was picked up by Adams Chambers on the right-wing, he lifted it back into the middle for the unmarked Downing to guide a header into the far corner.
The visitors came close to a third goal in the opening exchanges of the second period, good work by Brandy on the edge of the box playing in Grigg whose shot was pushed out by the diving Stuckmann.
Walsall only had to wait a little longer for another though, Grigg taking advantage of a slip by Luke Foster to break into the box.
Forced on to his weaker foot, Grigg laid the ball back into the path of Baxendale who thumped a first-time drive into the top corner from 20 yards.
Holmes almost reduced the deficit in the 59th minute, his curling free-kick looking bound for the top corner until McLoughlin got across to tip it over.
Stuckmann had to be alert to race out and dive at the feet of Grigg as the Saddlers front man gave the PNE defence the slip.
Late on, substitute Graham Cummins met a John Welsh cross but could only loop a header on to the top of the net.
North End did grab a consolation two minutes into stoppage-time, Wright forcing home a header from close range after a scramble in the box.
PNE: Stuckmann, King (Cummins 72), Wright, Foster, Buchanan, Monakana (Byrom 65), Wroe, Welsh, Holmes (Hayhurst 80), Garner, Beavon. Unused subs: Robertson, Procter, Beardsley, Taylor.
Walsall: McLoughlin, Purkiss, Butler, Downing, Benning, A Chambers, Mantom, Baxendale (Hemmings 79), Paterson, Brandy (J Chambers 86), Grigg (Bowerman 86). Unused subs: Taundry, Featherstone, Taylor, Grof.
Referee: Carl Boyeson (Hull)
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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