PNE boxed clever says Kilkenny

Matthew Sadler, under pressure from Neil Kilkenny, concedes a penalty
Matthew Sadler, under pressure from Neil Kilkenny, concedes a penalty
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Preston North End midfielder Neil Kilkenny felt that the Lilywhites has boxed clever in their victory over Crawley at Deepdale.

The Australian likened his side’s patient passing game to the tactics of a boxer and was pleased that it had paid dividends.

It did not make for 
the most gripping of games but the 2-0 scoreline steadied the ship after a difficult week for North End which had seen them lose at Walsall and let slip a three-goal lead against Chesterfield.

Kilkenny told the Evening Post: “We kept the ball well – it was probably one of our best performances of the season in terms of keeping the ball and passing it.

“We worked on the theory that if the other team don’t have the ball then they cannot score.

“Sometimes the crowd got a bit twitchy because we played sideways or backwards but it was important we kept hold of possession. Every time we got the ball we didn’t try and push straight away to score.

“When you keep the ball, tiredness and frustration can creep into the opposition and gaps then open up.

“It is a bit like boxing – jab, jab and then hit your opponent with the killer punch.

“When the gaps appear you go and knock them out.

“We had the guts to hold on to the ball, kept it moving and we have the footballers in the side to do that well.

“After what happened in the Chesterfield game we had a couple of difficult days and it was important that we bounced back.”

Bailey Wright’s first goal of the season put PNE into a 23rd-minute lead, with Kilkenny then involved in the second-half incident which led to them being awarded a penalty – one which Joe Garner dispatched.

Crawley left-back Matthew Sadler and Kilkenny both moved to meet a cross from Paul Gallagher, the ball bouncing up against Sadler’s arm as he tried to clear.

Said Kilkenny: “The lad sort of controlled it with his arm and the referee gave it.

“I did tell their lad that it was a bit harsh but at the same time, I was there to have a shot at goal and he stopped me.

“It was one of those 50/50 ones. If it had not been given I would have been frustrated – but I could kind of understood if it hadn’t been given.

“I’m glad that it was and Joe took the penalty very well.”

The one downside of the weekend was some bad news from the treatment room.

Jordan Hugill is facing up to six months on the sidelines after knee surgery on Thursday uncovered some serious damage.

An innocuous-looking fall during the Walsall game saw th striker suffer a micro-fracture of his cartilage and the damage has had to be pinned. The best case scenario is four months out but it could stretch to six.

Keeping Hugill company on the sidelines for the next month will be Kevin Davies.

He broke a rib in the Walsall game, an X-ray on Friday confirming the damage.

David Buchanan came off at half-time against Crawley with a hamstring injury.