Preston North End 3, Stoke City 1
Preston returned to winning ways with a terrific 3-1 victory over Stoke City at Deepdale on Wednesday night.
A dominant first-half display resulted in North End going in at the break two goals to the good courtesy of goals from Daniel Johnson and Billy Bodin.
It was certainly not a memorable half for England goalkeeper Jack Butland, who allowed Bodin's effort to squirm under his body, while he perhaps should have done better with Johnson's shot from the edge of the area.
In the second half, PNE kept the visitors at arms length and made it 3-0 in the 69th minute through Josh Harrop.
James McLean grabbed a late consolation for Stoke with a minute to go.
Stoke began the match slightly in the ascendancy and an early corner in the third minute caused a minor alarm in the North End defence.
Danny Batth's header at the back post was punched away by PNE No.1 Declan Rudd.
Soon after former Blackpool ace Tom Ince bore down on goal but he scuffed his shot from the edge of the area and the ball drifted harmlessly wide of goal.
North End soon got into their stride and took the lead in the seventh minute through Johnson.
Tom Barkhuizen used his pace to latch onto a long ball played down the right.
His centre was only half-cleared to the edge of the area by the visitors' defence. Johnson won the race to the ball, flicked it in front of himself before firing the past Butland, who could only glove the ball on its way into the net.
Four minutes later, great link-up play between Johnson and Paul Gallagher released Harrop.
However, the 23-year-old pulled his effort wide from outside of the box when he may have been better playing in an unmarked Bodin in the inside right channel.
North End were very much on top at this stage and they doubled their advantage in the 25th minute - a goal very much from the route one school of football.
Rudd's long punt downfield was chased after by Barkhuizen. He made it awkward for the City defence and when the ball reached the penalty area, Butland came out to punch.
However, he failed to get a good connection and the ball landed at the feet of Bodin.
With the whole of Deepdale begging him to shoot first time as Butland back-peddled, Bodin controlled the ball. The chance looked to have gone, but the winger's subsequent shot squirmed underneath the England goalkeeper much to his embarrassment.
The home side continued to control the play for the rest of the half, with the only moment of alarm coming in first half injury time when Tom Edwards' cross from the right caused panic in the six-yard box before being cleared by Ben Davies.
Clearly handed a rocket at half-time by their manager Nathan Jones, City came out looking to put the hosts under pressure.
However, they struggled to break down an organised North End defence marshalled well by Patrick Bauer and Davies.
They came close to scoring was on the hour mark when Rudd misjudged a corner and Nathan Collins header at the back post was headed over by Bauer from underneath his own crossbar.
In the aftermath of the resulting corner, Ince prodded over from point blank range, but the ex-Tangerines star was flagged for offside.
North End made the game safe nine minutes later when Johnson latched onto a loose ball inside the box.
The ex-Aston Villa man sidestepped his men but his shot was beaten away by Butland. The ball landed at the feet of Harrop, who fired home into the bottom corner.
The game threatened to boil over in the 78th minute when James McLean appeared to pin down Fisher on the floor after a challenge.
The PNE full-back reacted and both men found themselves in the referee's notebook.
City scored a late and undeserved goal in the 89th minute when McLean fired home at the back post.
In stoppage time, Harrop tested the palms of Butland with a long range effort.
PNE: Declan Rudd, Tom Clarke (Darnell Fisher 41), Patrick Bauer, Ben Davies, Joe Rafferty, Ben Pearson, Paul Gallagher (Alan Browne 82),Daniel Johnson, Josh Harrop, Billy Bodin (Brad Potts 59), Tom Barkhuizen. Subs not used: Connor Ripley (GK), Ryan Ledson, Andre Green, Jayden Stockley.
Booked: Pearson, Harrop, Fisher
Stoke City: Jack Butland, Tom Edwards, Joe Allen, Liam Lindsay, Danny Batth, Tom Ince (Sam Vokes 70), James McClean, Lee Gregory, Scott Hogan (Peter Etebo 58), Sam Clucas, Ryan Woods (Nathan Collins 46). Subs: Adam Federici (GK) Tommy Smith, Tyrese Campbell, Mark Duffy
Booked: McLean, Collins
Referee: Mr J Brooks
Assistant referees: Mr A Howson, Mr R. Wild
Fourth Official; Mr P Wright