Blackburn Rovers 0 Preston North End 1 - Lancashire derby joy for PNE at Ewood Park

Daniel Johnson's early goal was enough for Preston North End to beat Blackburn Rovers in the local derby clash at Ewood Park.

Saturday, 9th March 2019, 1:07 pm
Updated Saturday, 9th March 2019, 2:53 pm
Daniel Johnson scores for Preston's winner against Blackburn at Ewood Park

The midfielder rifled home a fine finish from Lukas Nmecha's cross for the contest's only goal, the victory delighting the 7,514 North End fans who made the trip to the east of the county.

It wasn't a vintage PNE performance by any stretch of the imagination in this lunchtime game, with them having plenty of work to do to protect their slender advantage.

However, some strong defending - Ben Davies was outstanding at the heart of the back four - and a couple of good saves from Declan Rudd saw them hold on to the lead.

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More than 7,500 Preston fans travelled to Ewood Park

They had to do that woth 10 men for the last four minutes of stoppage-time when Darnell Fisher was sent-off for his second booking of the game.

This was a fifth successive away victory for Alex Neil's men, a fine achievement, and one which keeps them in the hunt for the play-offs.

The North End starting XI have shown one change from the one which had draw with Bristol City last Saturday.

An injury ruled Brad Potts out, this the first game he had missed since signing from Barnsley in January, with Nmecha replacing him.

Preston midfielders Paul Gallagher and Daniel Johnson battle for the ball with the Blackburn midfield

There was a first inclusion on the bench for Josh Ginnelly, with Brandon Barker also returning among the substitutes for the first time in two months.

PNE lined-up in a 4-1-4-1 system, Nmecha playing on the right-wing and skipper Paul Gallagher on the left, Johnson and Alan Browne in the midfield with Ryan Ledson sitting behind them.

In the seventh minute, Adam Armstrong got down the side of the Preston defence and fired a shot across goal and well wide of the far post.

It was soon after that chance that the visitors went down the other end and took the lead with a fine counter-attacking goal.

Ledson's pass found Browne who in turn swept a pass out to the right channel for Nmecha to chase.

The Manchester City loanee showed a good burst of pace to beat his marker and get down the side of the box.

He cut the ball back low to Johnson who hammered a first-time shot into the roof of the net from 14 yards.

Half chances came at both ends, Danny Graham flicking a header straight into the gloves of Rudd while Browne fired a shot over the top from 25 yards.

Throughout the first half North End struggled to get their passing game together, often resorting to the long clearance out of defence.

In the 23rd minute, Graham's header across goal was pushed behind by the diving Rudd.

Towards the end of the half, Elliott Bennett fired over for the home side and Bradley Dack put a header too high.

Early in the second half, Fisher had to hack clear from inside the six-yard box near the far post after a header had flown across goal during a spell of Rovers pressure.

North End had a couple of promising attacks in quick succession, the first when Johnson's fine cross field pass released Maguire down the right hand side.

The Irishman put over a low cross which goalkeeper David Raya dived to collect.

In the 56th minute, PNE counter-attacked well with the ball played to Browne on the right.

He looked up and played the ball across the pitch to find the supporting Gallagher who rode a challenge to get into the box before hitting a right-foot shot which Raya dived to save.

Gallagher had another chance in the 69th minute when he rolled a corner short to Maguire, took the return pass and hit a low shot from a narrow angle which the keeper saved at the near post.

Graham had the ball in the net when he ran clear to score but referee Oliver Langford pulled play back for a foul on Jordan Storey.

North End made their first substitution of the afternoon with Gallagher giving way to Jayden Stockley - the sub went up front, flanked by Nmecha and Maguire.

Rudd pulled off a fine save in the 78th minute, a cross from substitute Amari's Bell hitting Ledson on the foot as he tried to clear.

The ball spun goalwards, with Rudd getting down superbly by the near post to push it behind.

In the 88th minute, Johnson's corner from the right was met by Browne, his header goalbound until it bounced against Corry Evans and behind.

North End were reduced to 10 men two minutes onto stoppage-time when Fisher felled Bell.

Having already been booked for an 82nd minute clash with Graham, a red card followed the second yellow.

Joe Rafferty came on for his PNE debut to fill the right-back slot, Nmecha sacrificed.

The closing stages were seen out with 10 men, the final whistle bringing a huge roar from the North End fans.

Blackburn: Raya, Nyambe, Mulgrew (Bell 72), Williams, Reed (Nuttall 62), Smallwood (Rothwell 72), Evans, Bennett, Armstrong, Dack, Graham. Subs (not used): Brereton, Travis, Conway, Leutwiler.

PNE: Rudd, Fisher, Storey, Davies, Hughes, Ledson, Nmecha (Rafferty 90), Browne, Johnson, Gallagher (Stockley 77), Maguire (Barker 83). Subs (not used): Earl, Ginnelly, Huntington, Crowe.

Referee: Oliver Langford (West Midlands)

Attendance: 21,577 (7,514 PNE)