PRESTON PILE ON PRESSURE AT TOP
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.”
LOOKING UP: Preston’s Jermaine Beckford, centre, celebrates scoring their first goal with Daniel Johnson, left, and Callum Robinson