Preston North End 2-1 Reading - PNE snatch it at the death as they move level with the play-offs
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Tom Cannon opened the scoring for the home side into the second half after countless PNE chances but a header from Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan direct from a long throw in gave the Royals a surprise equaliser. With the season potentially on the line the home side desperately need a winner to keep up the chase for the play-offs and Brad Potts headed home PNE’s winner in the second minute of stoppage time at the end of the game.
Ryan Lowe made two changes for the game against the Royals, Josh Onomah - his first start for the club - and Alvaro Fernandez coming into the side.
Captain Alan Browne missed out with an ankle injury picked up at Queens Park Rangers in the last game, with Robbie Brady dropping to the bench.
Preston were quickly into their rhythm and were controlling proceedings from the off, creating their first chance after just five minutes. After a period of possession the home side worked it out to Andrew Hughes on the left who delivered towards the near post where a diving Brad Potts headed wide.
Lowe's men continued to dominate the first 45, with the visitors looking a poor side, but it took a quarter of an hour for the home side to make another chance for themselves.
On 19 minutes the Lilywhites broke at pace. Daniel Johnson sent a ball out from left to right for the run of Potts who took it on well in his stride before laying it into the path of Tom Cannon who could only pull the ball inches wide of the far post.
The Everton loanee was again the one hoping to find the breakthrough after 32 minutes. Potts' long ball forward for the run of Alvaro Fernandez was brought down by the Spaniard under pressure before he fired it into the feet of Cannon, who checked back inside onto his left foot before again dragging it wide of the upright.
The Royals gave PNE a warning a minute later though as Andy Carroll headed a left wing cross wide of the post.
But Lowe's men responded, their corner from the left on 35 minutes nodded down by Jordan Storey into the path of Hughes who volleyed it towards goal but could only hit a crowd of legs, with goalkeeper Joe Lumley absent having tried to make the initial contact.
A Johnson shot five minutes from time also couldn't break the deadlock, trying his luck from range but seeing a deflection wrong foot the goalkeeper but also spin the ball past the post and wide.
Preston started the second half where they left off in the first half and were nearly gifted an opener. Hughes' cross was overhit slightly and Joe Lumley came to claim the ball, spilling into the path of Parrott although he did manage to reclaim it.
After 50 minutes North End were pushing to carve out a chance themselves. Whiteman's cross from the right side sailed over Lumley who got under the ball and Fernandez flung himself at it at the far post. Though the goal was at his mercy he couldn't manage to divert the ball on target at full stretch from a tight angle.
Four minute later there was more PNE pressure, Onomah dancing past two men in the box, including the goalkeeper, but he couldn't dig out a cross.
But after 56 minutes, North End finally had their breakthrough. They opened the scoring in some style too. With a throw in down the right win, they opted to work the ball back out and left, finding the feet of Fernandez. He set off down the left and played a one-two with Onomah before delivering a low ball into Cannon who had pulled out away from the defence and he made no mistake - scoring his sixth goal in as many games.
The visitors did have a response however, seeing a goal ruled out. Scott Dann was the man to have the ball in the back of the net just before the hour mark but he was ruled offside following the flick on from Naby Sarr.
Potts was next to try his luck for the Lilywhites, Whiteman stood over a free kick from a similar range to the one he scored against Blackpool, but opted to square it to the wing back who connected well with the strike but it was straight at Lumley.
Cannon could have made it two for him and Preston after 69 minutes as he was set away by Parrott and he opted to take the strike on early but Lumley made the save to keep it to one.
The Royals were allowed into the game a little more after a host of substitutions, Jeff Hendrick setting his sights from range and forcing a good save from Freddie Woodman low down.
But Reading went one better a minute later, getting themselves on level terms. A long throw from the right was flicked on at the near post by Ehibhatiomhan and it lopped over everyone including Woodman and into the back of the net. A late sucker punch for PNE who had more than enough chances to see themselves well clear of the Royals.
Johnson scuffed a shot wide with three minutes to go under pressure and from the resulting corner Potts nearly won it for the home side. Whiteman's shot took a nick on the way through and fell to the feet of Potts who thought he'd won it before Lumley pulled off an excellent reflex save.
But win it Potts did, in the second minute of second half stoppage time. Robbie Brady, on off the bench, swung a corner to the far post where the ball was nodded back into the centre for the no.44 to head beyond the Reading 'keeper to send Deepdale into raptures.
The win leaving PNE level on points with the play-offs with five games to go in the Championship.
PNE Starting XI: Woodman, Storey, Lindsay, Hughes, Potts, Whiteman, Johnson, Onomah (Woodburn, 72'), Fernandez, Cannon, Parrott (Brady, 89').PNE subs: Cornell, Bauer, Diaby, Slater, Ledson.
Reading Starting XI: Lumley, Yiadom, Dann, Sarr, Holmes (Azeez, 72'), Guinness-Walker, Loum (Fornah, 72'), Hendrick, Casadei, Joao, Carroll (Ehibhatiomham, 72').
Reading subs: Boyce-Clarke, Mbengue, Abrefa, Craig.
Attendance: 15,092 (436 away)