Preston North End 1 Birmingham City 2 - match report on a fifth league Deepdale defeat in a row for PNE
Preston North End suffered a fifth Championship home defeat in a row as Birmingham City scored early and late to take the three points at Deepdale.
It is only the second time in PNE's history that they have lost five on the bounce at home, it having happened in the 1958/59 season.
Defeat was a touch harsh on North End who were better than they were in last Wednesday's reverse to Millwall.
But two poor defending cost them for both goals Birmingham goals which came in the second and 85th minute.
In between, Jayden Stockley scored a wonderful equaliser, finding the net from 30 yards with a fine opportunistic finish.
Riley McGree had given the visitors the lead with just one minute and 14 seconds on the clock, with substitute Gary Gardner heading the winner within moments of coming on to the pitch.
To add to North End's woe, Darnell Fisher suffered a recurrence of a hamstring injury in the second half and Andrew Hughes played the closing stages of the game limping heavily with a similar injury - by then all three substitutes had been used.
The North End side had shown five changes to the one beaten by Millwall last Wednesday night, Stockley joined in returning to the starting XI by Josh Harrop, Tom Barkhuizen, Paul Gallagher and Fisher.
Before kick-off a minute's silence was observed in memory of former PNE manager and England World Cup winner Nobby Stiles who passed away on Friday, aged 78.
PNE could not have made a worse start, a little more than a minute played when they fell behind.
Jonathan Leko got the wrong side of Jordan Storey to chase a long ball down the right channel into the box.
Declan Rudd came out to block from Leko and couldn't react quickly enough to get to the loose ball.
Lukas Jutkiewicz managed to hook the ball across the ball into the path of McGree who steamed in and drove a low finish past two defenders into the net.
They looked shaky for a spell after that, Leko putting a header too high and also seeing a shot blocked by Gallagher.
North End began to find their feet, Browne's cross from the right just evading Stockley as he stretched out a leg at the far post.
Their equaliser in the 24th minute was a fine piece of play and finishing from Stockley.
Rudd's long goal kick was headed clear just outside the Birmingham box by Blues skipper Harlee Dean.
When it fell to Stockley 30 yards out there seemed little threat to the visitors.
The striker had other ideas, bringing the ball down on his chest, letting it bounce before hammering a right-foot shot flew over goalkeeper Neil Etheridge and into the top corner of the net.
Harrop, making his first Championship start of the season, beat his marker down the left and sent over a cross which found Patrick Bauer's header in the middle, his header blocked in the six-yard box.
It was Harrop's industry which created another good opening just after Bauer's chance, this time having beaten two players on the left side of the box.
He cut the ball back to Gallagher who in turn knocked a pass forward to find Browne seven yards out. The skipper tried to back heel it goalwards when it needed a bit more and the keeper gathered comfortably.
Just before the interval, Harrop tried a shot from 25 yards but it didn't have enough dip on it and it cleared the bar.
Three minutes into the second half, Rudd made a comfortable save from Mikel San Jose's header at the far post.
North End worked a good opening in the 53rd minute, Browne winning possession from McGree and driving down the left.
His pass inside found Gallagher on the edge of the box who in turn fed Barkhuizen down the right hand side of the box.
Perhaps Barkhuizen should have shot but he chose to put a low ball into the middle and the Birmingham defence cut it out.
Ledson replaced Gallagher in the 62nd minute, the midfielder's first task on the pitch to put in a block to deflect Ivan Sanchez's shot behind.
Three minutes later, Rafferty had to be summoned from the bench with Fisher pulling up holding his hamstring, that a blow with the right-back having looked good on his return.
When Rudd dived to save Ivan Sunjic's low shot in the 72nd minute, the keeper hurt his knee and needed treatment before being able to continue.
The visitors were the looking the stronger side by this point and their winner came in the 85th minute, substitute Gardner left unmarked in the middle to head home a cross from the right.
Barkhuizen was denied an 88th minute equaliser by as superb save from Etheridge, his right-foot curling shot from the left-hand corner of the box tipped away at full stretch by the keeper.
PNE: Rudd, Fisher (Rafferty 65), Bauer, Storey, Hughes, Browne, Gallagher (Ledson 62), Barkhuizen, Johnson, Harrop, Stockley (Riis 75). Subs (not used): Maguire, Sinclair, Potts, Ripley.
Birmingham: Etheridge, Dacres-Cogley (Colin 86), Roberts, Dean, Pedersen, Sanchez, McGree (Garnder 84), San Jose, Sunjic, Leko (Bela 57), Jutiewicz. Subs (not used): Colin, Friend, Kieftenbeld, Hogan, Prieto.
Referee: Tony Harrington (Cleveland)
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