O’Con­nor spot-on to thwart Li­ly­whites

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By James Mur­ray

PRE­STON manager Simon Grayson was left frus­trated af­ter his stut­ter­ing side yet again squan­dered a lead to draw with ten-man Port Vale – but re­mains pos­i­tive they can still bag au­to­matic pro­mo­tion.

Michael O’Con­nor twice lev­elled from the spot for the hosts af­ter Daniel John­son and Joe Gar­ner had put Pre­ston in front.

Richard Duffy was dis­missed for hand­ball, but O’Con­nor’s sec­ond five min­utes from time gave the rel­e­ga­tion-threat­ened Valiants a huge boost with two games re­main­ing.

Pre­ston are now 14 games un­beaten, but hav­ing drawn five of their last seven from win­ning po­si­tions, Grayson knows they need to be more ruth­less if they want to go up au­to­mat­i­cally.

“This was an­other two points dropped,” he said. “In the first half we were to­tally in con­trol, but in the sec­ond we stopped do­ing what we had done so well.

“I have no com­plaints with the penal­ties, although they were both avoid­able.We had to be more alert, un­der­stand sit­u­a­tions bet­ter.

“At 2-1 up it looked like Port Vale had the ex­tra man, and what was dis­ap­point­ing was that we didn’t have many chances to make it 3-1.

“That’s frus­trat­ing, and we’ve let the sup­port­ers down again.

“But we fin­ished on a pos­i­tive note by say­ing our des­tiny is still in our con­trol – even if we are mak­ing it very dif­fi­cult for our­selves.

“We go again Tues­day and if we win our next three games, we get pro­moted.”

Pre­ston went in ahead af­ter John­son’s 12thminute opener, wast­ing a num­ber of op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­tend their lead.

And that mar­gin proved frag­ile af­ter Tom Pope’s half-time in­tro­duc­tion, Port Vale’s top-scorer promptly win­ning a penalty on 52 min­utes which O’Con­nor smashed home. But par­ity only lasted seven min­utes be­fore Duffy saw red af­ter han­dling Clarke’s goal­bound ef­fort. Gar­ner made no mis­take with the penalty, but, de­spite the nu­mer­i­cal dis­ad­van­tage, John Welsh brought down O’Con­nor to give the Valiants their life­line.

“It takes a lot of courage and char­ac­ter to do that, and Michael prac­tises penal­ties ev­ery day af­ter train­ing,”Vale boss Rob Page said.

“You have to be brave to take the sec­ond one be­cause it is psy­cho­log­i­cal games with the keeper. I was re­ally pleased for him.

“We’ve got what we have de­served. It was a proper bat­tling per­for­mance by the lads, down to ten men as well – this epit­o­mised the char­ac­ter in that chang­ing room.

“Nei­ther I nor the staff are sur­prised as we see it ev­ery day in train­ing.”

STAR MAN MICHA

EL O’CONN

OR Port­Vale

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