Preston North End 1 Watford 0: Boothroyd stays calm amid slump

Preston substitute Neil Mellor stepped off the bench to fire Alan Irvine's Coca-Cola Championship strugglers to a potentially crucial win over high-flying Watford.

Former Liverpool striker Mellor had been on the pitch for just two minutes when he lashed home from close range to settle a close affair at Deepdale and end a three-game losing streak for the home side.

Adrian Boothroyd's side have the best away record in the whole division but were outplayed for the majority of the clash by Irvine's men before Mellor's 75th-minute finish which boosted the Lilywhites' hopes of avoiding relegation.

Irvine's side have a tough run of fixtures over the next six weeks - which sees them take on West Brom, Stoke twice and Watford again - but they showed enough commitment and organisation to suggest that they have enough to survive.

Marlon King took his place in the Watford side after the club turned down a £4million bid from Premier League strugglers Fulham this week, while Richard Chaplow and Chris Brown were both handed debuts by Irvine after their moves from West Brom and Norwich respectively.

King was subdued throughout and with reports of a fresh bid circulating his future is uncertain.

North End's left winger Lewis Neal had the first effort of the match but his ambitious strike from 35 yards sailed harmlessly over after a crisp passing move from the home side.

Neal was at the hub of everything about Preston's bright start and, after he did brilliantly to keep the ball in on the touchline, his low cross was dummied by Chaplow but Brown's effort was well blocked by Jay DeMerit.

Chaplow was then robbed by Jobi McAnuff 25 yards from goal and only a fingertip save from Andy Lonergan kept out his low drive before Watford defender Matt Jackson was lucky not to be sent off for cynically hauling down the rapid Karl Hawley after he had misjudged a long ball.

The former Wigan man was only booked by referee Scott Mathieson for the foul and Boothroyd's side almost rubbed salt into the wound by scoring instantly.

Tommy Smith's cross caused havoc in the Preston defence and Darius Henderson somehow found the ball at his feet just eight yards from goal.

He got a shot away but Lonergan reacted superbly to palm the ball away and deny Henderson his 11th goal of the season.

The second period struggled to get going as both sides squandered possession far too cheaply with Simon Whaley's blocked shot after a bright Sean St Ledger run the only highlight of the opening 15 minutes.

Another long-range drive from Neal forced a good save out of Richard Lee as the hosts controlled the majority of the play with Watford content to use the pace of King and McAnuff on the break.

Chaplow and Brown were both replaced as they felt the effects of a lack of first-team football and it was Brown's replacement Mellor who found the breakthrough.

Whaley's deep cross from the right was turned back into the danger zone by Neal.

Mellor hit his shot straight at Lee but, as the ball rebounded back to him, placed his second effort right into the top corner.

Watford sub John-Joe O'Toole then shot narrowly wide from 25 yards before Henderson headed straight at Lonergan.

Goal: Mellor (75) 1-0.

Preston North End (4-4-2): Lonergan; St Ledger, Mawene, Chilvers, Davidson; Whaley, Chaplow (Carter, 75), McKenna, L Neal; Brown (Mellor, 73), Hawley. Substitutes not used: C Neal (gk), Sedgwick, Ormerod.

Watford (4-4-2): Lee; Doyley, Jackson (Mariappa, 79), DeMerit, Stewart; Smith, Williamson, Francis (O'Toole, 76), McAnuff; King, Henderson. Substitutes not used: Poom (gk), Priskin, Ellington.

Referee: S Mathieson (Cheshire).

Booked: Preston North End Davidson, Whaley; Watford Jackson.

Man of the match: Neal.

Attendance: 12,347.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks