Match report: PNE 0 Burnley 1

PNE v Burnley
PNE v Burnley
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Preston North End slipped to defeat against promotion-chasing Burnley at Deepdale.

Joey Barton's deflected free-kick in the sixth minute settled the contest in the Clarets' favour, sending them top of the Championship.

It was the visitors who bossed large periods of the first half, a change of shape eventually helping North End cope better.

In the second half, Burnley twice hit the woodwork through Andre Gray and George Boyd.

But they could not find a second goal and it was Simon Grayson's men who finished the game strongly.

Daniel Johnson forced a save out of Tom Heaton, while there were late chances for Paul Gallagher and substitute Callum Robinson.

North End did not make enough of their late possession though, the delivery into the box and final ball lacking the necessary quality.

Burnley hung on and went top, at least until Saturday afternoon when Middlesbrough play.

Jermaine Beckford, Calum Woods and Chris Kirkland had come into PNE's starting XI, with Eoin Doyle, Marnick Vermijl and Anders Lindegaard missing.

Beckford inclusion's alongside Joe Garner in attack was the first time the pair had started a game together since the play-off final at Wembley last May.

Goalkeeper Kirkland replaced the injured Lindegaard - the Dane hurt his right shoulder in last Tuesday night's draw at Birmingham.

Vermijl also missed out with injury, the right-back limping off after getting a kick on the top of the foot early in the Birmingham game.

There was no Doyle in the squad, the striker missing for family reasons.

John Welsh missed out on a substitute role after picking up a calf strain in training.

The game started at a frantic pace, a first-minute cross from Adam Reach finding Beckford but he headed wide.

Burnley threatened when Kirkland's punched clearance dropped to Boyd who fired high and wide.

They went ahead in the sixth minute after Paul Gallagher was penalised for a foul 25 yards out.

Barton took the free-kick, it taking a big deflection off Alan Browne in the Preston wall to wrong-foot Kirkland and roll into the net.

It prompted a pitch invasion by a small group of Clarets supporters at the other end of the ground.

North End lost the services of Ben Pearson soon after, the midfielder hobbling off after being on the end of a crunching challenge on the half-way line.

Daniel Johnson was summoned off the bench to replace him in the engine room.

For the first half hour it was the visitors pretty much in control as they exploited the space behind PNE's wing-backs.

Much of their joy came down Preston's left, with Reach too far up the pitch when the visitors were on the attack.

Another Barton free-kick, this time whipped in from the right, bounced into the box and was headed over by Gray.

Scott Arfield's corner was headed straight into Kirkland's gloves by Ben Mee.

Burnley maintained their pressure with Kirkland having to come off his line to kick a through ball clear just ahead of Sam Vokes.

The ball bounced to Dean Marney outside the box who fired wide.

A fine block by Greg Cunningham prevented a second Burnley goal, the defender getting in the way of a Gray shot.

North End switched to a flat back four around the 30-minute mark, it certainly stemming the visitors attacks.

That gave rise to the hosts' best spell of the first period, Beckford shouting for but not getting a penalty when he got a nudge in the box.

Four minutes before the interval, Gallagher's corner from the right found Garner but he got too much under the ball and headed over.

Marney got the game's first yellow card in the 43rd minute for dumping Garner on the floor with a robust challenge.

Referee Kevin Friend, who had seemed to have a Claret tinge to his decision-making, had the book out again soon after to caution Garner and Lowton after they clashed.

An early second-half chance fell North End's way, Cunningham's cross finding Beckford at the near post but the ball appeared to come off his shoulder and go over.

Twice in the space of 20 seconds Burnley hit the Preston woodwork as they worked-up a head of steam.

Gray got space down the right side of the box and struck a shot against Kirkland's near post.

Bailey Wright and Cunningham both got blocks in as the ball bounced around the goalmouth.

When it was eventually cleared, Boyd hit a shot from distance which clipped the top of the bar on its way over.

Arfield curled a shot past the far post, before North End responded with a good chance of their own.

Woods came inside off the right-wing and struck a left-foot shot from 20 yards which hit a Burnley leg and went behind for a corner.

Beckford brought down a long ball well, jinked past two defenders before seeing a shot blocked by Michael Keane on the edge of the box.

The visitors threatened again when Barton took the ball past Alan Browne on the left side of the box, cut inside and tried his luck from a narrow, Kirkland saving with his legs.

Preston finally forced Tom Heaton into a save in the 70th minute, Beckford bringing the ball down well on the edge of the ball and laying it off to Johnson.

The substitute hit a right-foot shot which Heaton dived to push away, Garner getting to the rebound, turning and shooting over.

North End pushed and push for an equaliser in the closing stages but just lacked the quality final ball to unpick the Burnley defence.

Late on, Gallagher hit a free-kick into the wall while Robinson, on as a late sub for Browne, put a 95th minute shot just over the bar from a Woods cross.

PNE: Kirkland, Clarke, Wright, Cunningham, Woods, Browne (Robinson 84), Gallagher, Pearson (Johnson 10), Reach, Garner (Hugill 74), Beckford. Subs (not used): Kilkenny, Huntington, Smith, Hudson.

Burnley: Heaton, Lowton, Keane, Mee, Ward, Boyd, Barton, Marney (Jones 90), Arfield, Vokes, Gray (Barnes 79). Subs (not used): Taylor, Dyer, Tarkowski, Darikwa, Robinson.

Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)

Attendance: 17,789 (5,630 away)