Sunderland 0 Preston NE 1: Nugent hit is solid gold for Preston

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David Nugent's eighth goal of the season kept Preston neck and neck with Derby for the second automatic promotion place, North End ahead on goal difference, and confirmed a growing head for heights at Deepdale. Brett Ormerod's 36th-minute cross found the striker for a close-range header that came against the run of play.

It was enough to secure the hard-earned respect of the Sunderland manager, Roy Keane. "Preston have a great chance of winning promotion," he said. "They are well organised and they make it very hard for you and I think David Nugent will score goals in the Premiership."

The visitors had started well, having their first chance in the opening minute through Matthew Hill, but the ball sailed straight into Darren Ward's hands. The home side slowly exerted control, Liam Miller making the visiting keeper Carlo Nash look spritely with a left-foot shot from 25 yards. Chances came thick and fast for Keane's side, with Dwight Yorke and Daryl Murphy both going close.

Half-time saw the Sunderland manager make a tactical change, taking off Yorke for the Republic of Ireland striker Stephen Elliott. As play surged to the visitors' end Ross Wallace had two chances in succession, but a left-footed shot was saved by Nash and a second attempt flew wide.

"They defended excellently, had bodies on the line," said the Preston manager, Paul Simpson. "I knew this would be a big test and we came through."