Preston North End 0 Watford 1 match report: Lilywhites pay the penalty at Deepdale
A penalty early in the second half condemned Preston North End to defeat against Watford at Deepdale.
Joao Pedro settled the contest in the Hornets' favour with the contest's only goal in the 51st minute.
The Brazilian teenager had won the penalty after tangling with Tom Barkhuizen in the box, the award of the spot kick slightly on the soft side.
From an attacking point of view North End's best spell came early on, with Ched Evans having two sights of goal.
Once they fell behind though, the hosts looked laboured going forward and never really looked like they had the guile to unpick Watford's defence.
Substitute Anthony Gordon did inject some life in the final stages but the visitors held out for the three points without too many anxious moments.
It was a ninth home defeat for PNE in the Championship, with them yet to win on home soil in 2021.
Alex Neil had made two changes as he changed shape to a 4-2-3-1 after the successful use of a 3-5-2 at Blackburn last Friday.
Ryan Ledson missed out through injury, while Greg Cunningham - on target at Ewood Park - dropped to the bench.
Scott Sinclair and Jayson Molumby came into the starting XI, Molumby partnering Ben Whiteman in the midfield pairing with Daniel Johnson more advanced.
It was Whiteman who created North End's first sight of goal in the 11th minute and a very good one at that.
The January buy's chipped pass sailed over the Hornets' back line and was met on the volley by Evans who couldn't keep his effort down and shot over the bar.
Another opening fell the way of Evans six minutes later, the striker wriggling free down the right hand side of the box but he shot wide of the near post.
For the remainder of the first half it was Watford who had the lions' share of possession but some solid PNE defending meant there was little for goalkeeper Daniel Iversen to do.
The visitors forced half-a-dozen corners in the first half hour, Liam Lindsay and Jordan Storey equal to the flag kicks slung into the box.
Ismaila Sarr volleyed over from 20 yards after one of those corners had been headed clear, while Will Hughes saw a shot from distance deflected over the bar.
Just before the interval, Barkhuizen dropped a right-footed cross from the left-wing behind the Watford defence but the keeper claimed before a Preston player could make a move.
The game's only goal came five minutes into the second, an untidy challenge in the box ultimately settling an untidy contest.
Barkhuizen and Pedro got their legs tangled as they competed for a ball in the middle of the penalty area, referee Tony Harrington pointing to the spot as the Watford man hit the turf.
Pedro struck the penalty into the bottom left hand corner, Iversen going the correct way but unable to get to it.
North End haven't got a great record of chasing deficits this season, especially at Deepdale, and as the second half went on they didn't look convincing in their pursuit of an equaliser.
Liam Lindsay sent a header too high from Johnson's corner, with Barkhuizen lifting a shot high and wide after cutting in from the wing.
At the other end, Kiko Femenia drove down the right channel on the counter attack and fired wide of Iversen's goal.
Gordon's introduction just after the hour injected a bit more life into Preston, the Everton loanee replacing Barkhuizen.
It was only in the last 10 minutes that North End began offering more of a threat in attacking areas.
Gordon's 83rd minute free-kick found Lindsay in the box, the defender's header blocked but the ball falling back into his path.
His second bite of the cherry saw him fire a low shot wide, although it did look to catch a deflection on its way through.
There was almost a second goal for Watford in the 89th minute, Andrew Hughes having to hook the ball off the line.
North End pushed during the four minutes of stoppage-time but in the main found their way blocked on the edge of the box by a resolute Watford defence.
PNE: Iversen, Browne, Storey, Lindsay, Hughes, Whiteman, Molumby, Barkhuizen (Gordon 62), Johnson (Potts 79), Sinclair (Riis 72), Evans. Subs (not used): Ripley, van den Berg, Huntington, Rafferty, Cunningham, Gallagher.
Watford: Bachmann, Femenia, Cathcart, Sierralta, Masina, Cleverley, Chalobah (Gosling 73), Hughes, Sarr, Pedro (Perica 80), Sema (Zinckernagel 80). Subs (not used): Elliott, Wilmot, Troost-Ekong, Lazaar, Hungbo, Gray.
Referee: Tony Harrington (Cleveland)
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