Match report: PNE 1 Coventry City 0

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Kevin Davies’ 150th career goal gave Preston North End a narrow victory over Coventry City at Deepdale.

The 37-year-old striker headed home a fine ball from Paul Gallagher in the 22nd minute and that was enough to deliver their first win in the league since Boxing Day.

PNE v Coventry

PNE v Coventry

Davies had endured a wait of more than 12 months for the landmark goal, his last one ironically coming against Coventry on January 18 last year.

The Sky Blues ran North End close, almost equalising three times in the second half when they were the better side.

Frank Nouble lifted a close-range shot over the bar, then late in the game Jim O’Brien saw a shot deflected inches wide and John Fleck smashed a stoppage-time effort against the woodwork.

But the Lilywhites hung on for a welcome three points which followed-up their FA Cup success at Sheffield United.

Simon Grayson had made two changes to the North End side.

Daniel Johnson and Sam Johnstone returned to the starting XI after being cup-tied for the FA Cup replay victory over the Blades.

Joe Garner was among the substitutes again as he continued his comeback after surgery on a detached tendon.

Former Preston midfielder Adam Barton, who made 58 appearances in a PNE shirt, was in the Coventry side.

Grayson was forced into an early change, Calum Woods limping off in the 18th minute to be replaced by Brownhill.

Scott Laird dropped back into the left-back role vacated by Woods with Brownhill going into a centre midfield spot.

It took time for the contest to come to life, the first chance of note being a header from Coventry centre-half Aaron Martin which went over the bar.

North End went ahead in the 22nd minute, Gallagher’s delightful ball dropping over the Sky Blues defence, Davies stealing in behind them to send a header past goalkeeper Lee Burge.

Gallagher drove a 30-yard free-kick high over the bar soon after, then went a lot closer with a half-volley which flew across the box and flew out beyond the far post.

A powerful run from Coventry front man Dominic Samuel took him towards goal on the left hand side of the box but Paul Huntington got across to cover and his challenge took the ball out for a corner.

Davies almost got a second goal in the 35th minute, Gallagher’s cross hitting his chest and travelling goalwards until Burge sprang up to tip the ball over the bar.

Just before the interval, Brownhill met a Gallagher corner with a looping header but Burge helped it behind.

Coventry started the second half the brighter of the sides and carved out a couple of chances as they looked to pull level.

A free-kick from Luke Williams found Andy Webster at the far post, his tame header going into Johnstone’s gloves.

The visitors should have equalised in the 57th minute, Laird’s slip giving Williams the time and space to put in a low centre from the wing.

It picked out Nouble at the near post but from six yards he skied the ball into the Bill Shankly Kop.

Joe Garner and John Welsh were introduced into the game as a 67th minute double substitution, replacing Neil Kilkenny and a limping Gallagher.

Brownhill tried his luck with a free-kick from 25 yards which thudded into the gloves of Burge.

With 76 minutes gone, Barton’s well-struck shot from 20 yards was parried low to his right by the diving Johnstone.

A thunderous volley from Sky Blues skipper O’Brien nicked off a Preston leg and out for a corner as they mounted late pressure.

Then three minutes into stoppage-time, Fleck’s full-bloodied shot from 25 yards crashed back off the angle of bar and post.

PNE: Johnstone, Wiseman, Clarke, Huntington, Woods (Brownhill 18), Kilkenny (Garner 67), Johnson, Humphrey, Gallagher (Welsh 67), Laird, Davies. Subs not used: Wright, Reid, Ebanks-Blake, Stuckmann.

Coventry: Burge, Pennington, Webster (G Thomas 84), Martin, Willis, O’Brien, Barton, Fleck, Nouble (Tudgay 61), Williams, Samuel. Subs not used: C Thomas, Jackson, Turgott, Haynes, Thomas, Charles-Cook.

Referee: Mark Brown (Hull)

Attendance: 13,363 (629 away)