Match report: PNE 1 Fulham 2

PNE v Fulham
PNE v Fulham
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Preston North End slipped to defeat against Fulham at Deepdale to leave them still looking for their first Championship point of the season.

They fell behind in the 33rd minute to a Sone Aluko goal after failing to clear their lines after a corner.

It was no more than the Cottagers deserved after being the better side in the first half, North End failing to get any kind of foothold in the opening 45 minutes.

They were better in the second half but Fulham doubled their advantage with a 67th minute goal from Matt Smith after Tom Cairney had been allowed to drive forward from midfield without being properly challenged.

Substitute Callum Robinson made an instant impact from the bench, pulling a goal back for PNE within four minutes of coming on - sending a diving header into the roof of the net from a Jermaine Beckford cross.

It was fellow sub Beckford who thought he had equalised in the 88th minute when he headed home from close in, only for an offside flag to go up.

Replays showed that Beckford was onside when he met Tom Clarke's header to put it into the net.

Skipper Clarke had returned to the defence after missing the midweek win over Hartlepool with a hamstring twinge.

He took the place of Paul Huntington who dropped down to the bench.

Joe Garner partnered Eoin Doyle in the attack, amid speculation linking him with Scottish club Rangers.

Before kick-off, there was a minute's applause in memory of PNE legend George Ross who died in May, aged 73.

Fulham were out of the blocks quickly and went on to have the better of the first half.

Inside a minute. Scott Malone overlapped down the left side of the box to meet an Aluko pass, his low cross cut out by Anders Lindegaard.

The lively Aluko got a shot away in the 13th minute, one which Clarke slid across to block and take behind for a corner.

North End's first sight of goal came at the quarter-hour mark, Garner's shot from 20 yards catching a deflection and going wide.

The chances started to come frequently for Fulham, Smith meeting a Cairney free-kick and heading wide, then Cairney's speculative dipping effort from 25 yards landed on top of the net.

Smith steered a diving header - under pressure from Bailey Wright - across goal and wide after connecting with a Malone cross.

Preston's best chance of the first period was Doyle's header from a Paul Gallagher free-kick, it going too close to keeper David Button who saved comfortable.

Fulham took a 33rd minute lead, it being a rather soft goal to concede from North End's point of view.

When a corner was cleared, Fulham put it back into the box, Alan Browne's attempted hooked clearance deflecting across the face of goal and presenting Aluko with the chance to nod home from close in.

Just before half-time, the visitors had the ball in the net again, Smith heading home at the far post. But referee James Adcock spotted a push on Lindegaard as the cross came over and disallowed it.

North End made a better start to the second half, with there being far more purpose to their play.

A 47th minute corner from Gallagher was won in the air by Clarke, his downward header blocked by a defender and running into the path of Garner.

The striker chose to take a touch before shooting, his effort charged down and the danger was cleared.

Doyle had the ball in the net with a header at the far post but the Irishman was clearly in an offside position and up went the flag against him.

Garner's volley was goalbound until it struck Malone on the head in the 54th minute, the chance created after persistence from Browne as he drove forward from midfield.

Fulham had a good spell after the hour, Smith curling a shot wide after space opened up in the Preston defence.

Lindegaard saved well at his near post from Floyd Ayite, pushing the winger's powerful striker behind after he had jinked into the box.

The visitors doubled their lead in the 67th minute, the North End defence backing off as Cairney carried the ball forward on the counter-attack.

Cairney reached the edge of the box before feeding a pass to Smith, the tall striker's first shot blocked by Lindegaard but he made no mistake with the rebound.

Grayson responded with a double substitution, Robinson and Beckford joining the action in place of Ben Pringle and Doyle.

The substitutes combined within four minutes of coming on to half the deficit.

Beckford got room down the right channel and put over a cross which Robinson met with a diving header which shot into the roof of the net.

Fulham almost restored their two-goal cushion when Scott Parker was allowed too much room to waltz into the box, Lindegaard standing up well to block the former England man's shot.

In the 88th minute, North End were contentiously denied an equaliser.

Clarke climbed to meet a high ball into the box and head it across goal for Beckford to nod it into the roof of the net.

But up went the assistant's flag on the Invincibles Pavilion side of the ground and it was ruled out.

PNE: Lindegaard, Grimshaw (Humphrey 82), Clarke, Wright, Cunningham, Gallagher, Pringle (Robinson 67), Browne, Johnson, Doyle (Beckford 67), Garner. Subs (not used): Spurr, Huntington, Hugill.

Fulham: Button, Malone (Ream 90), Kalas, Madl, Odoi, Ayite (Christensen 81), McDonald, Parker, Cairney, Aluko, Smith (Woodrow 73). Subs (not used): Stearman, Tunnicliffe, Sessegnon, Joronen.

Referee: James Adcock (Nottingham)

Attendance: 10,809 (637 away)