O’Connor spot-on to thwart Lilywhites
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