Preston North End 2 Norwich City 0: Graft added to grind puts Preston in pole position for play-offs

Click to follow
The Independent Football

So, as hard as their admirable manager Billy Davies bangs on about over-achievement by a small club severely stretched by injuries, Preston have a real chance of competing in English football's top flight for the first time since 1961.

On an unforgiving, bobbly surface, they demonstrated a pragmatism and work-rate that underlined why they have become masters at grinding out results over the past two seasons.

They are not blessed with great flair and needed the good fortune of two first-half own goals to capitalise on their supremacy over a dreadful Norwich City side whose own capacity to graft, in away games at least, has evaporated since their spirited bash at Premiership survival last spring.

Preston have lost David Nugent for two substantial spells, been deprived of his replacement Danny Dichio and seen the likes of Callum Davidson, Brian O'Neil and Adam Nowland sidelined.

Even on Saturday, O'Neil and Marcus Stewart departed in the first half with hamstring problems but the side were functional and disciplined enough to cope. "It's looking quite good for us now," said the Preston captain Graham Alexander, looking ahead to the play-offs.

Preston, set on their way when Jason Shackell crashed a header in off his own bar, prospered further when Gary Doherty unluckily skewed in Simon Whaley's cross.

Goals: Shackell og (19) 1-0; Doherty og (38) 2-0.

Preston North End (4-4-2): Nash; Mears, Davis, Mawene, Alexander; Stewart (Hibbert, 44), Whaley (Wilson, 83), O'Neil (Sedgwick, 27), McKenna; Agyemang, Ormerod. Substitutes not used: Ward (gk), L Neal.

Norwich City (4-4-2): Green; Fleming, Shackell, Doherty, Drury; Hughes, Robinson (Henderson, 78), Etuhu, Huckerby; Earnshaw, McKenzie (Johansson, 12). Substitutes not used: Gallacher (gk), Charlton, Colin.

Referee: M Fletcher (Worcestershire).

Booked: Preston Nash; Norwich Drury.

Man of the match: McKenna.

Attendance: 15,714.