Leicester City 1 Preston North End 2: Whaley secures play-off spot

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The Independent Football

It began as a fanfare for Rob Kelly's reign as permanent manager as Leicester scored the fastest goal in their history, but it ended with Preston taking the points to guarantee their place in the promotion play-offs for the second successive season.

After they lost in the final in Cardiff last year, that might not seem so surprising, but this is a Preston side hamstrung by the sales of Eddie Lewis and Richard Cresswell and David Nugent's lengthy absence with impetigo.

"For this club to be in the play-offs is absolutely remarkable," said their manager, Billy Davies. "I'm certainly going to have a drink tonight because it's a greater achievement than last season with the sales, the injuries, the chopping and changing. Consistency can be the key and we haven't had that. It's fantastic when you look at the resources at this club."

Wolves' draw with Watford on Friday left Preston needing only a point, but Davies, whose antennae for the gloomy interpretation are acute, saw a problem in that. "Last night I was very concerned," he said. "I saw the players and it was as if we were already there. Our first-half display proved that."

Crucially, they fell behind after 11 seconds. It took just six touches for the ball to move from the centre circle via Stephen Hughes and Gareth Williams to Matty Fryatt, and he calmly steered his finish past Carlo Nash. "I don't think there's ever a bad time to score," said Kelly, who was given a one-year rolling contract on Friday after 14 games as a caretaker, but it seemed to impact rather more on his team's application than on Preston's. "Physically and mentally it's been a long haul for us," Kelly admitted.

Simon Whaley levelled just before the break, wobbling through a couple of challenges before squeezing his 20-yard drive inside the post. Four minutes after half-time, Jason Jarrett headed the second after Claude Davis had flicked on a corner. "The second half was better," said Davies. "We looked more compact and controlled it."

It took a superb block from Youl Mawhene to deflect a late Fryatt effort over, but Preston just about deserved the win.

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