Preston intensify misery for Francis

Birmingham City 0 Preston North End 1
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This was not a result to improve the mood of the Birmingham manager Trevor Francis, who must appear before a disciplinary hearing in Nottingham tomorrow to answer charges of improper conduct relating to his side's last encounter with Preston.

That was the play-off semi-final at Deepdale in May, won by Preston, when referee Paul Durkin's decision to stage the penalty shoot-out at the home fans' end so incensed Francis he threatened twice to lead his team off the field. Players Michael Johnson and Danny Sonner, accused of using insulting and abusive language towards the official, must also appear tomorrow.

What upset Francis yesterday was not so much that it was Preston taking the points, but that it was a third defeat off the reel for Birmingham in a season that seems certain to be his last in charge at St Andrew's if he fails again to win promotion, following three consecutive play-off disappointments.

It might have been easier to swallow had Birmingham not been comfortably the dominant side. Rarely dropping the tempo, they created chance after chance, only to find converting any to be beyond them.

Very little went right for Francis. A shoulder injury to Alan Kelly, playing the last game of his loan from Blackburn, required him to change goalkeepers before half-time; the winger Stan Lazaridis withdrew at half-time because of a stomach bug; and he lost Johnson from his defence after an hour, the consequence of a blow in the face. The other Johnson – Andrew – was booked for diving after tumbling across Graham Alexander in the Preston box.

Preston, meanwhile, scored from virtually their only shot on target, and that an optimistic one. Full back Rob Edwards' effort from 30 yards should not have troubled the substitute keeper Nico Vaesen but bounced awkwardly in front of him and spun away from his outstretched hands to go in off a post.

One lost count of the number of times it seemed Teuvo Moilanen would be beaten at the other end. Before half-time, David Holdsworth, Andrew Johnson and Nicky Eaden (twice) all had good chances, while Geoff Horsfield forced Moilanen to make the game's best save. In the second period, Sonner (twice) and Michael Hughes both wasted even clearer opportunities.

The result was a relief to Preston, who have struggled so far to reproduce the form that made them last season's surprise promotion challengers. "After what happened at the end of last season, Birmingham were determined to win tonight, which made it hard for us," the Preston manager, David Moyes said. "I'm pleased with our performance, although from my point of view it is all water under the bridge now. I didn't think Trevor did much wrong."

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Kelly (Vaesen, 41); Gill, Holdsworth, M Johnson (Hutchinson, 61), Grainger; Eaden, Sonner, Hughes, Lazaridis (Woodhouse, h-t); Horsfield, A Johnson. Substitutes not used: Marcelo, Furlong.

Preston North End (4-4-2): Moilanen; Alexander, Lucketti, Murdock, Edwards; Cartwright, Gregan, Rankine, McKenna; Healy, Macken. Substitutes not used: Lucas, Jackson, Cresswell, Barry-Murphy, Anderson.

Referee: T Bates (Staffordshire).

Booking: Birmingham A Johnson.

Man of the match: Horsfield.

Attendance: 23,004.

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