Match report: Preston North End 1 QPR 0

Alan Browne's header five minutes into the second half earned Preston North End an opening-day victory over Queens Park Rangers at Deepdale.

Saturday, 4th August 2018, 6:34 pm
Updated Saturday, 4th August 2018, 7:38 pm
Alan Browne's header drops over the line at the far post

Browne, last season's double player of the year winner, met a Josh Harrop free-kick to loop a header into the net for the contest's only goal.

It was a three points they probably deserved on the balance of play and chances, however it needed a fine save from Declan Rudd in the 88th minute to tip a shot from QPR substitute Idrissa Sylla over the bar.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Alan Browne's header drops over the line at the far post

North End saw out stoppage-time with 10 men, skipper Tom Clarke suffering a head injury after all three substitutions had been used.

That saw Browne drop into the centre of defence alongside the excellent Ben Davies as the home side clung on to their slender advantage.

Hold on they did, the campaign up-and-running with three points.

Alex Neil's starting XI had seen Clarke and Davies partnered together in the centre of defence in preference to Paul Huntington, with summer signing Andrew Hughes as expected getting the nod at left-back.

Josh Harrop challenges for the ball against QPR

It was effectively a 4-1-4-1 system, Ben Pearson the midfield sitter with Browne and Harrop ahead of him - Louis Moult leading the attack.

North End controlled the opening 25 minutes, QPR content to sit off them and rely on the counter-attack.

Callum Robinson's seventh-minute shot from the edge of the box cleared the bar with some comfort, Browne and Tom Barkhuizen linking down the right side to create it.

Barkhuizen was a whisker away from opening the scoring when his first-time drive from 20 yards flashed over the bar, Moult's lay-off having landed in his path.

PNE boss Alex Neil

A Robinson shot hit QPR defender Joel Lynch on the thigh and spun wide, while the visitors' first chance coming in the 27th minute when Luke Freeman hit an effort well wide.

Just before the half hour Barkhuizen got to the byline on the right and pulled the ball back to Robinson, his shot clipping a defender and going behind for a corner.

Pearson blazed a shot over the top after Harrop's corner had been cleared out of the box, then Barkhuizen's powerful run down the right channel finished with his shot brushing a defender, that touch taking it into the side-netting.

QPR should have scored three minutes before the interval, Matt Smith stealing in front of the Preston defence to meet a Freeman centre, only to angle his downward header wide of the target.

North End broke the deadlock five minutes into the second half, a foul on Hughes down the left channel seeing the hosts awarded a free-kick.

Harrop delivered it right-footed over to the far post where Browne and Clarke both rose to meet it, Browne's header back across goal looping over the keeper and dropping in - Robinson there to make sure it had gone in.

It was a lead almost doubled in the 67th minute, Harrop's shot from 25 yards dipping goalwards and only just clearing the bar.

Three minutes later, Robinson took advantage of a slip in the QPR defence to win the ball 25 yards out.

He advanced to the edge of the box and hit a low shot which keeper Matt Ingram dived to his right to parry.

Daryl Horgan came on as PNE's first substitution of the afternoon, replacing Barkhuizen with 20 minutes remaining.

Another chance came Robinson's way in the 75th minute, Darnell Fisher's clever pass finding him outside the box.

Robinson turned inside into a pocket of space but put his scuffed shot too close to Ingram who saved easily.

Paul Gallagher replaced Moult and Ryan Ledson came on for Harrop as North End looked to get fresh legs on to defend their lead.

Rudd kept the lead in tact in the 88th minute with a fine save after QPR had been awarded a free-kick to the right of the PNE box.

Freeman whipped it on left-footed, it was headed up into the air and when it came down, Sylla's rising shot was tipped over superbly at full stretch by the Preston keeper.

Clarke left the action soon after that chance having taken a bang to the head.

It was a bit hairy in the closing moments, Browne dropping into the centre of defence as they had to defend a free-kick and then a corner.

But they saw the job through to win on the opening day of the season for the second season running.

PNE: Rudd, Fisher, Clarke, Davies, Hughes, Pearson, Browne, Barkhuizen (Horgan 70), Harrop (Ledson 83), Robinson, Moult (Gallagher 76). Subs (not used): Woods, Burke, Huntington, Maxwell.

QPR: Ingram, Kakay, Leistner, Lynch, Bidwell, Scowen, Luongo (Smyth 66), Osayi-Samuel (Manning 46), Eze, Freeman, Smith (Sylla 76). Subs (not used): Cousins, Washington, Baptiste, Lumley.

Referee: Darren England (Barnsley)

Attendance: 13,418 (1,064 QPR)