Brown boosted by win as Watford pay penalty for miss

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The Independent Football

Craig Brown was coming under pressure as Preston North End's manager as the new Football League Championship season approached, but his side made a good beginning with a 2-1 home win over Watford. Beating a side tipped to struggle against relegation may not be an indication of promotion potential, but it is a start.

David Healy earned the points with a penalty 13 minutes from time after a foul by Devlin, but it took a brilliant save by Preston's Andy Lonergan from Neil Cox's penalty to preserve the points.

Devlin had given Watford hope of a point when he equalised early in the second half after Preston led through Richard Cresswell.

Crewe Alexandra, who like Watford spent much of last season fighting off the threat of relegation, needed an equaliser five minutes from time to earn a 2-2 draw at home to Cardiff City.

Michael Higdon, the 20-year-old midfielder, volleyed home after being set up by Dean Ashton, who had put Crewe ahead after five minutes from the penalty spot. That goal came courtesy of Cardiff's new signing Robert Page, who moved from Sheffield United during the summer. He was struck on the arm by Ashton's shot after following up a parried header.

Cardiff equalised when Graham Kavanagh's long-range effort found its way to John Robinson, who fired the ball home. If that was messy, there was no questioning the quality of the goal with which Alan Lee put Cardiff ahead after nearly an hour. Collecting the ball 35 yards out, Lee advanced before thumping a 25-yard shot past Martyn Margetson. Higdon then rewarded Crewe's late pressure.

A disappointing Home Park spectacle ended with Millwall the better side, but they were left to rue the lack of a cutting edge up front, which cost them victory.

Striker Stefan Moore looked lively after joining on a three-month loan from Aston Villa and went close to scoring a debut goal for last season's FA Cup runners-up, who will have been more satisfied with what they produced than the Division Two champions.

However, both teams will need to improve considerably if they are to make any impact this term.

Plymouth Argyle's return to the second tier of the English game drew a crowd of more than 16,000, who will no doubt savour being there longer than they will remember a disappointing 0-0 draw against Millwall.

Argyle's Paul Wotton posed the first serious threat on goal with a free-kick after 65 minutes, and Millwall almost stole three points late on when Moore brought a fine save from Plymouth's goalkeeper, Luke McCormick.

Walsall fared best of the three teams who dropped down to what is now known as League One, beating Port Vale 3-2 at home. They took charge after the referee, Lee Probert, had reduced it to a 10-a-side contest for the final 23 minutes. Matt Fryatt gave Walsall the lead with a penalty after 12 minutes and they held on until just after the hour-mark, when Billy Paynter equalised but was then sent off for collecting his second yellow card.

Ian Roper soon followed him off to even up the numbers, and Walsall went ahead again with eight minutes remaining through Leroy Williams, who has emerged from the club's youth system. Daryl Taylor, a young winger, secured the points with Walsall's third with four minutes left, and Vale's last-minute goal through Lee Matthews was mere consolation.

MK Dons' first outing under their new name resulted in a 1-1 draw at home against Barnsley, who took the lead through Paul Reid midway through the first half. Izale McLeod, signed in the summer from Derby, came to the rescue for the Dons with a headed equaliser in the 76th minute.

Bradford City went ahead at Hartlepool United but conceded two late goals to lose 2-1.

In Scotland, Inverness opened their first season in the Premier League with a 3-0 defeat at Livingston. The home side struggled early on, but a goal just before the interval from the midfielder Burton O'Brien settled their nerves, and after the break goals by Craig Easton, on his debut, and Stuart Lovell secured the first three points of the season.