Match report: Fulham 3 PNE 1

Preston North End suffered disappointment on Gentry Day, with them going down to defeat against Fulham at Craven Cottage.

Saturday, 4th March 2017, 4:02 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 11:10 am
Tom Barkhuizen scores PNE's goal at Fulham

For long spells they played second fiddle to the Cottagers, although Tom Barhuizen's goal in his first PNE start briefly gave them a way back into the game.

It put a large dent in their chances of catching the top six and it would take some run now for them to force their way into play-off contention.

Fulham's movement was impressive, with them taking the lead through Sone Aluko in the 22nd minute.

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Gentry Day celebrations among the Preston fans in the away end at Craven Cottage

Chris Martin doubled their advantage after an hour, Barkhuizen then running clear to produce a neat finish to halve the deficit.

But Neeskens Kebano's goal 13 minutes from time clinched the three points for the home side who moved four points clear of North End.

It was a first defeat in six for Simon Grayson's men and only the second in 12 matches, spelling disappointment for the 2,821 Preston supporters who had made the trip to the capital to celebrate Gentry Day.

They came by train, coach, car and boat - 220 of them on board a hired boat which came up the River Thames to Putney Bridge.

Gentry Day celebrations among the Preston fans in the away end at Craven Cottage

Grayson had made one change, Barkhuizen replacing Callum Robinson.

Ben Pearson returned to the squad after missing the win over Queens Park Rangers, with the midfielder named on the bench.

PNE started in a 4-2-3-1, Barkhuizen and Horgan on the wings with Aiden McGeady playing off striker Jordan Hugill.

Greg Cunningham started at right-back, the position he had finished in against Queens Park Rangers a week earlier.

The first half was tough going for North End against a pleasing-on-the-eye Fulham side who moved the ball well and pushed players forward at every opportunity.

That said, there were a couple of half chances for the visitors in the opening spell, Hugill meeting a cross from Horgan but getting under it and putting his header too high

McGeady played in Horgan down the inside-left channel, the winger getting into the box but shooting straight at goalkeeper David Button.

Fulham began to get on top, getting their full-backs high up the pitch, often overlapping the wingers.

The hosts took the lead in the 22nd minute, the ball worked inside from the left-wing to Kebano down the side of the box.

Kebano pulled the ball low into the middle for Aluko to fire on the half-turn past Chris Maxwell from eight yards.

Maxwell saved from Ryan Sessegnon, then gathered Aluko's effort which had taken a deflection off Daniel Johnson.

Kevin McDonald wasted a good chance for the home side in the 37th minute, meeting a low cross in plenty of space on the edge of the box but shooting well wide.

Five minutes before the interval, Maxwell was alert to save at his near post, keeping out Tomas Kalas' flick from a Kebano corner.

North End counter-attacked after clearing the corner which followed, Barkhuizen leading the break forward.

He fed a pass out to McGeady on the left side of the box who cut inside and hit a shot which Button saved low down.

Five minutes into the second half, Kebano's shot from a narrow angle to the left of goal was helped against the bar by Maxwell's out-stretched glove.

Preston had their best chance so far in the 53rd minute, McGeady's pass inside from the left finding Horgan 20 yards out, his rising shot tipped over the bar by the keeper.

It needed a fine sliding challenge from Tommy Spurr to block a Tom Cairney shot from just inside the box.

A double substitution saw Pearson and Robinson join the action in place of Browne and Horgan in the 57th minute, North End switching to 3-5-2 with Barkhuizen and Cunningham in the wing-back roles.

Johnson curled a shot wide from the edge of the box after McGeady and Pearson had linked-up to good effect to work the ball across the face of the area.

But that spell of pressure was followed by Fulham's second goal as the contest hit the hour mark.

Ryan Fredericks carried the ball in field from the right-back position before feeding a pass through to Martin on the edge of the box who took a touch before shooting low past Maxwell.

Within eight minutes Preston had halved the deficit, McGeady sliding a pass between the Fulham left-back and centre-half to free Barkhuizen.

The January signing from Morecambe stayed ahead of two defenders and with the outside of his right boot, steered a low past Button.

Momentum swung back to Fulham in the 77th minute as they cut North End open to score a third goal.

Aluko rode two challenges and played in Kebano down the left hand side of the box, the winger shooting first-time time across Maxwell.

Before the goal was scored, PNE had been waiting to bring on Stevie May, the Scotsman making a delayed arrival in place of Hugill.

MKaxwell saved well low down from an Aluko shot in the 81st minute as the game got stretched.

Fulham: Button, Fredericks, Kalas, Ream, Sessegnon, McDonald, Johansen (Parker 80), Aluko (Odoi 88), Cairney, Kebano, Martin (Cyriac 84). Subs (not used): Malone, Madl, Sigurdsson, Bettinelli.

PNE: Maxwell, Cunningham, Clarke, Huntington, Spurr, Horgan (Robinson 57), Browne (Pearson 57), Johnson, McGeady, Barkhuizen, Hugill (May 79). Subs (not used): Makienok, Gallagher, Boyle, Lindegaard.

Referee: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire)

Attendance: 20,205 (2,821 PNE)