Preston North End 0 Derby County 1 - 5,000th league game sees PNE's play-off hopes take another big hit

Preston North End's historic 5,000th league game ended in disappointment as a free-kick from Wayne Rooney settled the contest in Derby County's favour at Deepdale

By Dave Seddon
Wednesday, 1st July 2020, 7:17 pm
Updated Wednesday, 1st July 2020, 7:20 pm
Preston midfielder Ben Pearson pursues Derby's Louie Sibley at Deepdale
Preston midfielder Ben Pearson pursues Derby's Louie Sibley at Deepdale

This result could well have put the play-offs beyond them, Derby following the lead of Cardiff by inflicting a home defeat on North End and going above them in the table.

With Cardiff four points ahead and Derby now three better off, North End face an uphill struggle to reclaim a place in the top six with just six games remaining.

This was a sixth game without victory either side of the lockdown and PNE's form has gone missing just at the wrong time.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Preston midfielder Alan Browne challenges Derby defender Matthew Clarke at Deepdale

If they looked like they were running out of steam before the season was suspended in March, there have been few signs of them picking-up again since last month's restart.

They rarely threatened to score against the Rams in this late afternoon clash, having plenty of possession but doing very little with it.

Just once did they have an effort on target, a second-half shot from Brad Potts which went straight at the keeper.

Rooney's 18th minute goal was enough to win it for the Rams, the former England skipper finding the net with precision from a 20-yard free-kick.

PNE striker David Nugent chases Derby defender Matthew Clarke

North End huffed and puffed to regain parity but lacked penetration near the Derby box.

The starting XI showed five changes to the side beaten by Cardiff last Saturday.

Paul Huntington, Joe Rafferty, Potts, Paul Gallagher and David Nugent came into the side - this Gallagher's 600th career appearance and Nugent's 600th league appearance.

Daniel Johnson was ruled out by injury, with Darnell Fisher, Jayden Stockley, Patrick Bauer and Tom Barkhuizen dropping down to the bench.

Wayne Rooney celebrates giving Derby the lead against PNE

The 5,000th game landmark was marked in low key manner ahead of the match, with a socially-distanced presentation made by EFL chairman Rick Parry to North End chairman Craig Hemmings.

PNE's re-jigged side lined-up in a 4-1-4-1 formation, Ben Pearson in the holding role with Gallagher on the left and Scott Sinclair on the right.

Potts and Alan Browne formed an attacking midfield pair behind striker Nugent - the former Derby man struggling to keep his feet in the early stages.

Derby had a sight of goal in the fourth minute as Martyn Waghorn got away from the PNE defence and moved into the box, his shot too close to Declan Rudd who pushed it away.

The Rams' opener came after Huntington had been adjudged to have fouled Louie Sibley a couple of yards outside the box

There was an argument for the foul to have been the other way round although Huntington looked to catch the Derby youngster as they got up off the ground.

Rooney took it right-footed, sending it over the wall and into the far corner with Rudd rooted to the spot.

North End had a decent patch after the goal as they looked for an equaliser.

Nugent slid a pass down the left side of the box to find Potts in space, Potts squaring it inside to Browne who slipped as he shot and the ball went wide.

Browne saw a low shot blocked in the box, the ball rolling out to Gallagher outside the box.

Gallagher drove an effort goalwards, it deflecting off a Derby leg and going behind for a corner.

Just before the half-hour, Rudd dived low to his low to glove a shot from Duane Holmes past the foot of the post.

With half-time looming Browne's pressing forced Matt Clarke into a hurried clearance, the ball coming to Gallagher who hurried his shot and put it over the bar when more calmness was needed.

A quiet opening to the second saw PNE have plenty of the ball but the possession didn't break the Derby lines.

The visitors had a chance to increase their lead when a Rooney corner flicked off Browne's head and fell to Max Lowe who lifted a shot over the bar.

Pearson led a North End attack in the 59th minute with a burst up the middle of the pitch, his run taking him deep into the Derby half.

His pass found Potts to the left of him, Potts trying his luck with a shot from the edge of the box which went straight at keeper Ben Hamer.

As the game moved into its closing stages, a couple of good crosses from Potts caused the Derby back line issues in the six-yard box but PNE were unable to capitalise.

Some late pressure saw North End work the ball into some good areas but the final ball in was lacking.

Right at the death they forced a corner on the right, substitute Josh Harrop delivering into the box where keeper Rudd - up to help his team-mates - headed over the bar.

PNE: Rudd, Rafferty, Huntington, Davies, Hughes, Pearson (Stockley 77), Gallagher (Harrop 73), Potts, Browne, Sinclair (Barkhuizen 73), Nugent (Maguire 60). Subs (not used): Fisher, Ledson, Bauer, Bodin.

Derby: Hamer, Bogle (Forsyth 64), Clarke, Evans (Davies 82), Lowe, Bird, Rooney (Malone 90), Holmes (Martin 64), Sibley (Shinnie 64) Knight, Waghorn. Subs (not used): Jozefzoon, Whittaker, Hector-Ingram, Roos.

Referee: Jarred Gillett