Thursday 9 February 2023 Dublin: 2°C
PA Sean Maguire battling for the ball tonight.
# championship matters
Ireland striker Sean Maguire on target as Preston extend winning league run
The Lilywhites were 2-0 winners over Coventry.

IRELAND’S SEAN MAGUIRE was on target as Preston claimed a 2-0 Championship victory to extend their winning league run to three matches in their last fixture of the year against Coventry.

The Sky Blues, without a win at Deepdale since the turn of the century, entered the empty old stadium on one of the coldest nights of the year.

Not since 2013 had Coventry beaten Preston home or away and they started badly in their bid to address the record.

Tom Barkhuizen had a golden opportunity to find an oncoming colleague in the opening minutes but failed to execute.

It was no surprise that it was Johnson that opened the scoring, burying a close-range effort.

Barkhuizen robbed a dawdling Ben Sheaf in the penalty area and squared the ball to Johnson, who made no mistake with some work still to do.

Gustavo Hamer could have equalised moments later but he side-footed his shot from around the penalty spot straight at Declan Rudd.

Diminutive midfielder Hamer looked the most likely to either score or create something for the visitors. Stocky, and slippery on the ball, his knack of getting away from close markers created space for team-mates around him.

That his influence waned as the game progressed was potentially a reason for Coventry’s blank.

But they started the second half with intent. Rudd had to be sharp to tip away a dangerous cross from Fankaty Dabo. Callum O’Hare then headed over from Ryan Giles’ cross.

But it was Preston who extended their lead as Paul Gallagher’s free-kick from the right caused chaos in the City six-yard box.

After a few seconds of blocked shots, blocked clearances and an old-fashioned goalmouth scramble, Maguire’s toe-poke proved decisive.

The home side, who had won three of their last five at home, without ever looking unstoppable or expansive were efficiently getting the job done.

The Sky Blues exerted pressure in the last quarter-of-an-hour, winning several corners but with only a Leo Ostigard header over the crossbar to show for them.

Down the wings was the second-half plan for Coventry.

Dabo and substitute Sam McCallum whipped balls in at every opportunity but each one was dealt with by the sturdy Preston defence marshalled by the impressive Rudd.

Hamer tested Rudd again from range and the big stopper parried well protecting his team’s clean sheet.

But ultimately Coventry will rue not creating enough clear-cut chances and allowing Preston to profit from their mistakes.

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On a night where temperatures dipped below freezing, it was Preston who left their fans at home with a warm feeling as they earned maximum points — and Alan Browne also played 56 minutes.

In another late Championship match with significant Irish interest, an own goal from Stoke captain James Chester earned struggling Nottingham Forest an important Championship point on a misty night at the Bet365 Stadium.

Jordan Thompson curled the hosts in front from a corner in the first period, but his effort was cancelled out in the second half when Chester turned through his own net.

Forest had the better of the late chances but were wasteful in front of goal, with the sides sharing the spoils.

Nathan Collins and James McClean both started for Stoke, as did Cyrus Christie for Nottingham Forest, while Andy Lonergan and Harry Arter were on the respective benches.

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