Sunday Mirror

The head Gard­ner VI­TAL STATS

- By NEIL GOULD­ING at Deep­dale Sports · Soccer · Gary Gardner · Riley McGree · Neil Etheridge

AITOR KARANKA be­lieves he is build­ing some­thing spe­cial with Birm­ing­ham.

And no won­der the Span­ish man­ager was jump­ing for joy af­ter his late Gary Gard­ner sub­sti­tu­tion snatched vic­tory at Deep­dale.

The mid­fielder (above, cel­e­brat­ing) came off the bench and scored with his first touch to sink the off-colour Li­ly­whites, who set an un­wanted club record of six straight home de­feats. “A hun­dred per cent right it was an in­spired sub­sti­tu­tion,” said Karanka.

“I knew Gary could make an im­pact. I’ve said from the be­gin­ning I wanted to build a re­ally com­pet­i­tive squad – and ev­ery­one is fight­ing to­gether. We are feel­ing re­ally good and im­prov­ing. We’ve won two in a row, so hope­fully we can build on this.”

Debu­tant Ri­ley McGree fired the Blues ahead in the sec­ond minute with a sweet strike. But striker Jay­den Stock­ley lev­elled for the Li­ly­whites with a stun­ning 30-yard vol­ley that left keeper Neil Etheridge no chance.

How­ever, there was a st­ing in the e tale for the hosts as Gard­ner won it with a clin­i­cal header, his first touch, just off the bench.

“We didn’t start the game very well and the goal we con­ceded was s ridicu­lous,” moaned Pre­ston man­ager ger Alex Neil. “We’ve got to be stronger, r, that was a dread­ful start.

“We had a cou­ple of decent op­por­tu­ni­ties, but when those chances nces come our way we seem to miss them. em.

“Hard work and rep­e­ti­tion is the only way of turn­ing things around.”

PRE­STON NORTH END: Bauer 7, Fisher 6 (Raf­ferty ferty 65, 5); Har­rop 7, John­son 7, Browne 7, Gal­lagher 6 (Led­son on 61, 5), Barkhuizen 7; Stock­ley 8 (Riis 75, 5).

Un­used subs: Ri­p­ley, Maguire, Sin­clair, Potts. BIRM­ING­HAM CITY: Etheridge 7; Ped­er­sen 7, Dean n 7, Jose 7, Roberts 7, Dacres-Cog­ley 6 (Colin 86); McGree 7 (Gard­ner dner 84), Sun­jic 7, Sanchez 6; Jutkiewicz 6, Leko 6 (Bela 58, 5).

Un­used subs: Pri­eto, Friend, Kieften­beld, Hogan.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Ri­ley McGree. Aussie ace e scored and daz­zled on his de­but for the Blues.

REF­EREE: Tony Har­ring­ton 7.

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