PRE­STON PILE ON PRES­SURE AT TOP

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By Scott Hunt

PRE­STON manager Simon Grayson in­sists com­pla­cency will not be a fac­tor af­ter his side took an­other step to­wards pro­mo­tion from League One with victory at home to Rochdale.

Jer­maine Beck­ford’s first-half strike was the only goal of the game on Good Fri­day and tem­po­rar­ily put Pre­ston seven points clear of third-placed Swin­don, although MK Dons’ win at the County Ground yes­ter­day meant they leapfrogged the Robins and cut North End’s ad­van­tage to five points.

Grayson’s men are now un­beaten in 12 league games and boast the tight­est de­fence in League One – con­ced­ing just 33 goals.

And while Grayson be­lieves they de­served their win, he says the club will re­main fo­cused on their tar­get of pro­mo­tion to the Cham­pi­onship for the first time since 2011.

“There will be no com­pla­cency from our play­ers and staff,” he said.

“We’ve been say­ing over the last few weeks that we’ve worked hard to get to where we are, and we’ve got to work even harder to get to the tar­get we set our­selves in July.

“It was a tough test for us but ul­ti­mately we came through it with an­other clean sheet and three points to­wards our tar­get of pro­mo­tion.

“We just need to do what it takes to win a foot­ball match and that’s all we’ve done.

“We needed to try and get a sec­ond goal be­cause you could see last few min­utes we got a lit­tle bit anx­ious.

“It’s not a game where we’ve nicked it. We’ve con­trib­uted and cre­ated some real good op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Pre­ston had a great chance to take the lead af­ter 14 min­utes as Joe Gar­ner slipped Cal­lum Robin­son through on goal but his left-footed ef­fort from 18 yards was pushed away by Josh Lil­lis.

Out of the blue, Pre­ston took the lead af­ter 36 min­utes when Beck­ford gath­ered from a Scott Laird throw-in and fired a swiv­elled right-footed strike un­der Lil­lis from eight yards.

Rochdale should have equalised in the 53rd minute as Scott Tanser floated a ball into the six-yard box from the left wing but top­scorer Ian Hen­der­son headed over the bar.

An­other left-wing cross, this time for Pre­ston, found League One top scorer Gar­ner un­marked af­ter 58 min­utes, but his stooped header from eight yards was just wide.

De­spite the de­feat Rochdale are still in the play-off hunt, but manager Keith Hill be­lieves the re­sult shows why Pre­ston are press­ing for the au­to­matic pro­mo­tion places.

“The game just me­an­dered away be­cause they’re so re­lent­less, they al­most lock you down and put you in a sleeper,” he said.

“You can see why they’re sec­ond in the league and chal­leng­ing for top spot. They were one of my bets – I’ve not placed a bet – but Bris­tol City and Pre­ston just see games out.

“They get in the lead and they are de­fen­sively solid. The amount of times our strik­ers were caught off­side in the first half was ex­ces­sive.

“We had a stand­out chance with Ian Hen­der­son’s header.

“We played tremen­dously well in the first half. I thought we were ab­so­lutely su­perb but the goal is a poor goal to con­cede.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Images

LOOK­ING UP: Pre­ston’s Jer­maine Beck­ford, cen­tre, cel­e­brates scor­ing their first goal with Daniel John­son, left, and Cal­lum Robin­son

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