Preston North End 3 Millwall 2 - match report from Deepdale as PNE record victory
Goals from Alan Browne, Tom Barkhuizen and Andrew Hughes delivered victory for Preston North End against Millwall at Deepdale.
On a bitterly cold and wet afternoon, North End kept up their strong home form although at times in the second half it was rather uncomfortable as the visitors battled back.
Browne and Barkhuizen struck twice in five minutes towards the end of the first half to give the home side a 2-0 interval lead.
Those goals came after a rather drab opening half hour in which PNE had struggled to breakdown a stubborn Millwall side.
Jake Cooper's header halved the deficit just after the hour mark before Hughes restored the two-goal cushion in the 81st minute with a deflected free-kick.
Millwall scored again late in stoppage-time through Lee Gregory but North End saw it out to claim the three points.
North End had been forced into two changes, last week's matchwinner at Nottingham Forest Louis Moult and Brandon Barker ruled out with injury
There was a welcome return for Ben Pearson, with Lukas Nmecha coming into the starting XI.
On the bench was 16-year-old winger Ethan Walker, a first-year scholar - PNE down to their last 17 outfield senior players.
For much of the first half there was little in the way of goalmouth action to warm-up a freezing, wet afternoon.
An orange-clad Millwall side sat deep behind the ball in a bid to frustrate their hosts and for a long while it worked.
PNE had lots of the ball but found their route to the box blocked by the well-organised visitors.
Barkhuizen fired a couple of early efforts from distance over the bar, while a rare opening at the other end saw Jed Wallace's free-kick flicked on by Aiden O'Brien and falling beyond the far post.
Steve Morison hooked it back across goal before North End managed to clear their lines without any Millwall player getting a touch.
The deadlock was broken almost out of the blue in the 37th minute, it following a spell of possession in midfield as the hosts tried to work their way through.
Paul Gallagher's ball across the box rolled past Nmecha but fell into the path of Browne on the right-hand side of the box, the Irishman not getting a full contact on his shot but it still had enough to beat keeper Jordan Archer at his near post.
That lead was doubled in the 42nd minute, Gallagher lifting a pass from his own half down the right channel for Barkhuizen to chase.
Barkhuizen showed good pace to cut inside into the box and drive a confident right-foot finish across the out-rushing Archer into the far corner of the net.
Three minutes into the second half, Gallagher and Daniel Johnson worked a short corner on the left.
Gallagher came inside and worked himself into a shooting possession outside the box, his shot from the angle superbly tipped over the bar by Archer..
In the 52nd minute when Johnson was fouled just outside the corner of the box, North End were awarded a free-kick - Gallagher lifting it too high.
At the other end Rudd produced a good save to dive and parry Wallace's low shot, the rebound from the same player blocked by Paul Huntington.
Millwall halved the deficit in the 61st minute, earning a corner when Rudd pushed O'Brien's over the bar at the near post.
The flag kick was played deep to the far post where Cooper's downward header bounced over the line before being hacked clear - goallline technology indicating it had gone over before the clearance.
There followed chances at either end in quick succession, a header from Huntington back towards Rudd falling short, allowing Lee Gregory to steal in.
He took the ball wide of Rudd but from a narrow angle fired across goal and out of the other side of the box.
Barkhuizen saw a shot pushed behind by Archer at the near post, then a Browne header was blocked on the line.
In the 70th minute, Millwall broke four on two on the counter attack, it needing a fine sliding block from Huntington to take O'Brien's shot behind at the expense of a corner.
North End's third goal came nine minutes from time, Cooper's foul on Barkhuizen bringing them a free-kick 20 yards out.
Hughes and Gallagher were over the ball, it was Hughes who took it, his low left-foot shot staying low and taking a deflection to beat the keeper who also got a touch.
Only the woodwork prevented a fourth goal in the 89th minute as Barkhuizen's cross from the left was cushioned by Gallagher into the path of Pearson.
The midfielder struck a ferocious first-time shot from 20 yards which smacked against the bar.
Two minutes into stoppage-time Millwall grabbed a consolation, Gregory finishing with a close-range shot on the turn.
But it was too little too late for the visitors and North End held on to maintain their strong form of the last two-and-a-half months.
PNE: Rudd, Clarke, Huntington, Davies, Hughes, Pearson, Gallagher, Barkhuizen, Browne (Burke 90), Johnson (Ledson 82), Nmecha. Subs: Fisher, Storey, Woods, Walker, Maxwell
Millwall: Archer, Romeo, Cooper, Hutchinson, Meredith (Ferguson 46), J Wallace, Tunnicliffe (Elliott 82), Leonard, O'Brien, Morison, Gregory. Subs: McLaughlin, Webster, Karacan, M Wallace, Amos.
Referee: John Brooks (Leicestershire)
Attendance: 10,924 (437 away)