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Cherries: Preston punish Howe’s men
PRESTON netted two first-half goals to upset the odds and deservedly end Cherries’ five-match winning run this afternoon.
Cherries looked out of sorts for much of the League One clash as they failed to hit their recent high standards.
Stuart Beavon gave the hosts the upper hand on 19 minutes when he beat Shwan Jalal with a fine low drive.
Bailey Wright struck from close range on 31 minutes as Preston gave the division’s leaders a mountain to climb.
Having seen his men fail to seriously test North End keeper Declan Rudd throughout the first half, Howe wasted no time in making substitutions and he also tinkered with Cherries’ formation.
But there was no way back as Cherries suffered a rare defeat, only their second in the league since Howe’s Dean Court return.
Cherries boss Howe made three changes to the team which won at Crewe on Tuesday.
He handed a debut to loan recruit Marcos Painter at left-back, allowing Matt Ritchie to play in his preferred position on the right flank.
Shaun MacDonald and Marc Pugh both returned to the starting line-up, with Richard Hughes, Eunan O’Kane and Josh McQuoid all dropping to the bench.
Out-of-form Preston, under the caretaker management of John Dreyer following Graham Westley’s midweek exit, made no fewer than seven changes.
But defying the form-book and the odds, it was the hosts who made most of the early running.
Brett Pitman saw a shot deflected wide following a clever Ritchie free-kick but North End then soon began to impose themselves on a bobbly, difficult pitch.
Impressive Preston captain John Welsh lashed over from 20 yards before beginning the move which saw the home side edge ahead on 19 minutes.
His neat play on the left led North End into Cherries territory and after Beavon had latched on to a loose ball, the one-time Dean Court transfer target made no mistake, lashing low beyond Jalal from 20 yards.
Spurred on by a vocal Deepdale crowd, Preston came close moments later when Jalal was forced to parry and gather at the second attempt after a Lee Holmes drive.
Things took another turn for the worse for Cherries when Preston doubled their advantage on 31 minutes.
Nicky Wroe’s free-kick to the far post was not cleared and as the ball landed inside the six-yard box, defender Wright was on hand to scramble home.
Howe called on O’Kane with Pugh making way but Cherries struggled to generate any rhythm as the half drew to a close. Their best effort, Harry Arter’s ambitious long-range volley, failed to trouble keeper Rudd.
Bidding to find a route back into the clash, Howe replaced Painter with Fogden at the interval as Cherries switched to a three-man defence with Fogden and Ritchie as wing-backs.
Arter produced a goal-saving challenge to deny Will Hayhurst after MacDonald had been dispossessed, before Jalal made an exceptional stop to keep out Beavon’s powerful 25-yarder.
Howe then introduced Tubbs as a 53rd-minute replacement for Arter as Cherries went all out for a second-half comeback.
Fogden saw a shot deflected wide as Cherries forced a series of corners in their most promising spell of the match mid-way through the second period.
Both Steve Cook and MacDonald headed over when presented with reasonable opportunities but Cherries never hit their stride and were unable to find the goal which might have tested Preston’s resolve.
North End: (4-4-2) Rudd; Keane, Wright, Huntington, Buchanan; Holmes (Garner, 76), Wroe, Welsh, Hayhurst (Monakana, 84); King, Beavon (Beardsley, 76). Unused subs: Robertson, Procter, Foster, Stuckmann (g/k).
Cherries: (4-4-2) Jalal; Francis, Cook, Seaborne, Painter (Fogden, h-t); Ritchie, MacDonald, Arter (Tubbs, 53), Pugh (O’Kane, 31); Pitman, Grabban. Unused subs: McQuoid, Fraser, Hughes, Allsop (g/k).
Referee: Geoff Eltringham (County Durham)