Preston North End 1 - 0 Huddersfield Town: Examiner match report

SIR Tom Finney Way became a rocky road for Town, who desperately need a three-point pick-me-up, not just to spark some optimism, but to earn a play-off place.

Preston North End 1 Huddersfield Town 0
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SIR Tom Finney Way became a rocky road for Huddersfield Town, who desperately need a three-point pick-me-up, not just to spark some optimism, but to earn a play-off place.

It’s 1969 since a victory was last recorded at Deepdale, a historic venue which has been smartly modernised.

And after centre-back Chris Robertson’s 55th-minute goal gave the home side the advantage, Town seldom looked like getting anything.

As well as three successive defeats, that’s three matches running in which Simon Grayson’s side have failed to score.

The statistics suggest an over-reliance on runaway top scorer Jordan Rhodes, who has certainly broadened his striking skillset, but still needs decent service.

Normally that comes from Town’s wide players, but Gary Roberts and Danny Ward both struggled to make the kind of impact home favourite Danny Mayor managed on Saturday.

And when Rhodes did get the opportunities to add to his 38-goal haul, he either found German goalkeeper Thorsten Stuckmann an unbeatable barrier, or headed over.

All three of his chances came during a busy finale to a slow-burner of a first half, as both sides struggled to find their passing range during the opening stages.

Grayson, his hands tied to a fair degree by fitness concerns, made three changes to the team which under-performed so badly down at Bournemouth and plumped for 4-3-3 rather than 4-4-2.

Ian Bennett replaced Alex Smithies between the posts after the younger man sustained a nasty gashed ear in a freak training ground collision with Danny Cadamarteri.

Right-back Jack Hunt returned from a two-match ban, only to be caught out when Preston notched the winner from a short corner on his side.

And Roberts made a first start in four alongside Rhodes and Ward as Grayson, concerned by poor ball retention in recent games, went with two banks of three, Scott Arfield, Diego Arismendi and Anton Robinson filling the midfield berths.

It started encouragingly, with Robinson, in particular, catching the eye with his upfield forays, but the match as a whole lost direction, with the first effort on target taking half an hour to arrive.

It fell to Rhodes, who was set up by Arfield and Robinson but looked on as Stuckmann moved quickly to block the shot with his legs.

At the other end, 40-year-old Bennett showed there is nothing wrong with his reactions by pushing Mayor’s low shot around the right-hand post.

On-loan Rotherham frontman Chris Holroyd shot against Bennett’s other upright in the 37th minute before Rhodes met Hunt’s deep cross and headed narrowly over.

Preston were forced to make two changes late in the first half after striker Iain Hume and left-back Paul Parry both took knocks.

And a mix-up between Robertson and substitute defender Craig Morgan in first-half stoppage time let in Rhodes, only for Stuckmann to save once again.

It took a top tackle by right-back David Gray to dispossess Robinson as he romped goalwards in the 51st minute, but soon after, Preston were ahead as Mayor worked a short corner from the Preston left and crossed for the lurking Robertson to shoot home.

The lively Mayor might have had a second with a low shot four minutes later while Arfield came closest to a leveller with as 74th-minter shot which was tipped over.

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