Preston North End 2 Coventry City 0 - Match report as the Lilywhites end 2020 with a third consecutive victory
Goals from Daniel Johnson and Sean Maguire gave Preston North End victory over Coventry City at a freezing Deepdale.
Johnson struck a 50th career goal with 18 minutes on the clock, firing home after good work from Maguire.
The lead was doubled by Maguire from close range eight minutes into the second half, this win North End's third on the bounce without conceding a goal.
It was only the fourth time in Alex Neil's time as manager that the Lilywhites had won three in a row and it rounded off 2020 in a good way.
Mind you, PNE weren't great over the 90 minutes. In fact in the first half they were poor, their passing all over the place with Coventry the better side.
Johnson's goal was against the run of play for the first 45 minutes as a whole, with the Sky Blues feeling aggrieved to go in at half-time behind.
Neil's men were better in the second half though, even if it was a far from vintage performance.
They dug in and defended well, while they offered more of a threat going forward, with Maguire impressive in leading the line.
The North End side had shown one change from the Boxing Day win at Derby, Andrew Hughes replacing the injured Scott Sinclair.
Hughes slotted into a back three in a change of formation, playing to the left of Paul Huntington and Ben Davies.
Darnell Fisher and Josh Earl operated as wing-backs in the 3-4-1-2 system, with Tom Barkhuizen and Maguire the front two.
Coventry were the better side throughout the first half but it was PNE who took the lead in the 18th minute.
Maguire dispossessed Ben Sheaf on the right hand corner of the box with a good piece of pressing and fed a pass inside to Johnson.
As a defender came across to challenge, Johnson stepped across him and fired a low shot past the keeper.
Coventry almost grabbed a quick equaliser, Hamer's low shot saved by Declan Rudd after the ball had been pulled back from the byline on the right.
Just past the half-hour mark, Johnson's cross from the right channel found Alan Browne but his header lacked power and keeper Ben Wilson gathered comfortably.
North End's passing was ragged throughout the first 45 minutes, Browne particularly off kilter with his ability to find a team-mate.
Coventry bossed midfield, pushing forward quickly to get numbers forward, it being something of a relief when PNE got through to the interval still ahead.
Thirty seconds after half-time, Rudd had to get a strong hand to a cross from Fankaty Dabo to push it away, with Fisher clearing out of the box.
Callum O'Hare then headed over the bar after meeting a cross from the left as Coventry applied early second-half pressure.
Out of the blue almost, PNE pushed further ahead in the 53rd minute.
Maguire was fouled as he took the ball down the right-wing, earning a free-kick.
Gallagher and Johnson stood over the ball, Gallagher delivering into the six-yard box where a scramble ensued.
It eventually fell to Maguire to poked a shot through a sea of legs into the net for his third league goal of the campaign.
North End lost Browne to an injury shortly after the goal, Brad Potts replacing him . A second midfield change after the hour saw Ryan Ledson take Gallagher's place.
A third change saw Emil Riis come on for Earl, the hosts staying three at the back with Barkhuizen dropping into the left wing-back slot.
Riis had a sight of goal in the 72nd minute, meeting Johnson's free-kick with a flicked header which Wilson held underneath the bar.
At the other end, Rudd dived to parry a well-struck shot from Hamer as the visitors looked for a way back.
In stoppage-time, Barkhuizen got behind the Coventry defence and pulled the ball back into the path of Potts, only a good last-ditch block preventing him shooting.
Rudd, Huntington, Davies, Hughes, Fisher, Browne (Potts 56), Gallagher (Ledson 62), Johnson, Earl (Riis 68), Barkhuizen, Maguire. Subs (not used): Bayliss, Harrop, Storey, Rafferty, Stockley, Ripley.
Coventry: Wilson, Ostigard, McFadzean, Hyam, Dabo, Allen (Bapaga 70), Sheaf (Biamou 58), Hamer, Giles (McCallum 70), O'Hare (Shipley 58), Godden. Subs (not used): Pask, Hilbner, Bakayoko, Da Costa, Camp.
Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire)
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