Preston North End 0 Sheffield United 1

Preston North End's Manager Graham Westley
Preston North End's Manager Graham Westley
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Dave Kitson’s 43rd minute goal proved enough for Sheffield United to beat Preston North End at Deepdale.

The Blades striker lobbed Thorsten Stuckmann in the run-up to the interval after a long ball from the back had sailed over the North End defence.

In a game of few clear-cut chances, PNE almost snatched a 94th minute equaliser, substitute Paul Huntington seeing a close-range header superbly saved by visiting keeper George Long.

That was the first time Long had been troubled throughout the game, North End seeing plenty of the ball in the second half but not getting into areas to really hurt United.

And they were left to reflect on a poor moment of defending for Kitson’s goal as they were beaten at Deepdale for only the second time in League One this season.

Graham Westley had made three changes to the North End side, with Chris Robertson, Jack King and Chris Beardsley coming into the starting line-up.

North End had the game’s first chance, skipper John Welsh firing a shot from the right side of the box over the bar.

Harry McGuire went close for the visitors soon after, the centre-half peeling away from the PNE defence to meet Ryan Flynn’s inswinging free-kick and flicking a header just over the bar.

In the 23rd minute, North End wasted a great opportunity to take the lead, Nicky Wroe’s right-wing corner finding the unmarked Beardsley at the far post but the striker headed over from six yards.

On the half hour mark, Bailey Wright got himself on the end of a Wroe free-kick but at full stretch could only loop a header behind.

Five minutes before the interval, Stuart Beavon laid King’s cross into the path of Welsh, the midfielder drilling a first-time shot from 20 yards just past the post.

The visitors recovered from that scare to score what turned out to be the winner, Tony McMahon launching a long ball from the back which dropped over the PNE defence to send Kitson clear.

He brought it under control just outside the box before lobbing the advancing Stuckmann, the ball bouncing in off the inside of the far post.

A lively start to the second half saw Nick Blackman fire wide on the turn, while Robertson headed wide at the other end from Scott Laird’s corner.

Huntington, on as a substitute for the limping Wright, turned a Blackman cross against his own post as he attempted to clear.

In the 62nd minute, Jeffrey Monakana’s cross teed up Beardsley in the middle, the front man striking a first-time volley just wide from 14 yards.

Monakana wasn’t far off target with an effort from outside the box, the winger having shown some nice footwork to create space for himself.

Stuckmann came to PNE’s rescue in the 78th minute, sticking out a foot to block Blackman’s close-range shot after the striker had weaved his way into the box.

North End almost fashioned an equaliser in the dying seconds.

Akpo Sodje turned the ball back into the middle at the far post, Huntington getting on the end of it to head goalwards, only for Long to dive and glove the ball away at full-stretch.

PNE: Stuckmann, Keane, Robertson, Wright (Huntington 58), Laird, King, Wroe (Sodje 72), Welsh, Monakana, Beardsley (Amoo 64), Beavon. Subs unused: Cummins, Byrom, Procter, Simonsen.

Sheffield United: Long, McMahon, Maguire, Hill, Williams, McAllister (Collins 76), Flynn, Doyle, McDonald, Kitson (Porter 46), Blackman (Miller 84). Subs unused : Westlake, Cresswell, Cofie, Willis.

Referee: Chris Sarginson (Stafford)

Attendance: 11,536