Preston North End Lose Crucial Battle To Birmingham City In Their Race For Play-Offs

Preston North End’s highly-anticipated clash with relegation-battling Birmingham City saw an uninspiring performance and defeat for the away side. A singular goal from Fulham loanee, Jay Stansfield, would separate the two sides, giving City fans plenty to smile about, running out as 1-0 victors.

The man of the first half was undoubtedly City’s number seven, Juninho Bacuna, showcasing his ability to dictate the tempo on the wing, which completely overwhelmed Duane Holmes. The American midfielder found it tough, in his makeshift position, to deal with the pace, flair and unpredictability of the Curacao international.

In the first 25 minutes, North End made some worrying pass-backs and looked rather shaky in possession. With the West Midlands side appearing much calmer on the ball, they were able to create some concise spells of threat to the Preston defence. In particular, Koji Miyoshi’s 35th minute strike forced shot-stopper Freddie Woodman into a diving save. While it could be argued that his catch was ‘one for the cameras’, it proved to be a fine stop to keep the Lancashire side in the game.

Despite only registering two shots in the first half, North End had some very promising chances with Irishman Robbie Brady capitalising on a defensive error before squaring a pass into the box – only to be met with a miscommunication between Will Keane and Emil Riis, resulting in a Birmingham clearance. As a former striker himself, manager Ryan Lowe was seemingly frustrated on the sidelines that his players were timid in front of goal in the first half.

Perhaps the only real talking point of the game was an unfortunate, theatrical slip from Scottish defender Liam Lindsay, who allowed Jay Stansfield to run the entire half of the pitch, completely unchallenged, before slotting the ball past Woodman with impressive composure. This 68th minute goal was the young striker’s tenth of the season and proved to be an important winner to propel the the Blues into 20th place, just two points above the drop zone.

A positive for the away side was that young midfielder Noah Mawene made his full debut and acts as a huge milestone for him. Sadly he looked uncomfortable in the midfield due to North End having to chase possession for the majority of the game, but offered some decent passing play in transition. This came just days after both Noah and his brother Theo were interviewed by Preston’s Instagram team and his response to how close he is to first team football now seems pleasantly ironic.

“There’s still plenty more to do. I’m still a million miles away. It’s just the start, and I’m just glad I’m taking the right steps in the right direction.”

There is no doubt that the Lilywhites have struggled with injury and illness problems in the recent weeks. However, this defeat is a huge blow to their play-off ambitions and with a trip away to Watford on Saturday, the next fixture will surely be a must-win if the Lancashire side want to continue to fight until the end. Birmingham executed their game plan effectively and offered more ambition than Preston on the day, earning themselves three crucial points.

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