Preston North End 1 Coventry City 1: Nugent's header has Preston feeling giddy

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The Independent Online

Preston top this division for the first time since 1950, but their celebrations rang decidedly hollow last night as Dele Adebola's 80th-minute equaliser denied them a win that would have flattered Paul Simpson's team.

The journeyman forward scored an impressive solo goal after the home defence, unbeaten for the previous 450 minutes, gave him the time and space to beat the diving Carlo Nash from a dozen yards.

"I think it's fair to say it all fell a bit flat," Simpson said. "We waited 56 years to go top of this league but there were long faces in the dressing room afterwards because we only got a point.

"We were a bit nervy but I think that's something we've got to be able to deal with. If somebody at the start of the season had offered me top of the league at the end of November, I'd have snapped their hand off. When I calm down a bit I'm sure I'll be delighted."

Preston paid the price for a nervous performance and the fact they lack confidence in front of goal, having managed to score just twice in the past four League games - the goal, on this occasion, coming from a superb David Nugent header.

The striker, high on the January transfer wish list of a number of Premiership clubs, rose powerfully to meet Danny Pugh's 35th-minute cross and head past Andy Marshall with a textbook finish.

The tension seemed to lift with that effort and Simon Whaley was soon forcing Marshall into a sharp save low at the foot of his post before, in the final minute of the half, a surging run from Patrick Agyemang culminated in the Preston forward shooting inches wide from the edge of the area. In between those two chances, there was also a reminder that Coventry were capable of threatening, particularly with the physical Adebola causing problems. It was the forward's pass to Colin Cameron in the 41st minute that ended with the midfielder striking the outside of the post with a shot while Leon McKenzie headed just over before the interval.

After Nugent and Agyemang, with a spectacular 20-yard volley that was tipped over by Marshall, came close to extending the home team's lead, the introduction of Stern John as a substitute for City put North End on the back foot, but could not deny them their place at the top.

Preston North End (4-4-2): Nash; Alexander, St Ledger (Wilson, 14), Chilvers, Pugh; Whaley, Sedgwick, McKenna, Miller (L Neal, 73); Agyemang (Dichio, 81), Nugent. Substitutes not used: C Neal (gk), Ormerod.

Coventry City (4-4-2): Marshall; Duffy (Kyle, 77), Page, Ward, Hall; Cameron (Tabb, 68), Doyle, Clarke, Currie; Adebola, McKenzie (John, 68). Substitutes not used: Birchall, Bischoff.

Referee: R Lewis (Shropshire).

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