GARNER STRUTS GIVE PRESTON
‘If there’s a better goal I’ll be a chicken’
SIMON GRAYSON has seen it all before in the play-offs but the Preston boss struggled to recall a better strike than Joe Garner’s which salvaged his side a first-leg draw against Rotherham.
Grayson has taken three different clubs into the Championship – Blackpool and Huddersfield in the do-or-die play-offs and Leeds automatically.
His quest for a fourth promotion to add to his CV was looking grim until Garner’s glorious goal – volleyed home from 25 yards – gave Deepdale the lift it desperately needed at the start of the second half.
The Millers, who had won only two of their last six games prior to heading to Lancashire, looked on course for a vital advantage after Alex Revell had given them a first-half lead.
But the two will do battle again on Thursday with Grayson paying tribute to his 24-goal hero Garner.
“It gave us a bit of a lift, it lifted the crowd because we didn’t give them much to cheer about in the first half, but it got us going again and it’s still game on,” said Grayson.
“Joe’s been fantastic all season. He works ever so hard for the team and he’s got his reward with the goal.
“When you start these play-off games you want to make sure you’re still in the tie for the second leg and we’ve done that.
“It was a tight game, there wasn’t much in it in the first half and we got back into it in the second and obviously a fantastic strike from Joe Garner got us back in it.
“We knew how Rotherham were going to play, they play in your faces and get the ball up to the front two, we had to pass it a bit better and we tried to do that.
“We didn’t do it as well as we can do but it’s all to play for on Thursday night now.”
Preston had a strong penalty appeal turned down in the first minute when Garner went down under Craig Morgan’s tackle.
But the home fans were silenced when Revell raced onto his own flick- on and held off Tom Clarke before slotting the ball under Declan Rudd on 21 minutes.
The goal gave the Millers confidence and they were sharp to close down the opposition, forcing North End into a series of sloppy mistakes.
The moment of inspiration North End desperately needed, though, arrived just after the restart when Garner collected Clarke’s long ball expertly on his chest, nudged it over Kari Arnason and unleashed an unstoppable volley past Adam Collin from 25 yards.
The Millers almost went back in front straight away when Joe Skarz’ left-wing cross was met by Revell but he could only head the ball over.
Lee Frecklington then missed an even better opportunity four minutes later as his poor touch allowed Rudd to smother the ball after Wes Thomas had played him in.
The visitors continued to pile on the pressure and Rob Milsom was the next to go close but his left-foot shot went just wide.
The game fizzled out late on before Rudd had to be alert to keep out a James Tavernier header right at the death.
But Millers boss Steve Evans was left purring over Garner’s stunning
IT: Rotherham goalscorer Alex Revell after scoring the opener