Preston boss Ryan Lowe was delighted to avoid a potential banana skin after a comfortable 3-0 home win over a Rotherham side whose Championship status is hanging by a thread.

North End remain five points behind sixth-placed Norwich in the table, but they have lost just one of their last 10 to keep their play-off hopes alive.

Rock-bottom Rotherham, meanwhile, are now 19 points from safety with only seven matches left, having still not won a match in 2024 and not won at all on their travels this season.

Goals from Duane Holmes and two from Emil Riis just before half-time sealed all three points for Preston, with Lowe pleased at his team’s ability to get the job done.

Lowe, whose side go to struggling Birmingham on Monday, said: “A clean sheet and three points, nobody can ask for anything more than that I don’t think.

“Overall I thought the performance was fantastic.

“At this time it’s just about winning games of football, and we did that comfortably.

“I said to the players before the game that this one had to be about attitude and application, against a team who haven’t really got anything to play for.

“It could have been a potential banana skin, but to be fair to the group, it definitely didn’t turn out like that.

“We were on the front foot pretty much throughout the game, we produced some good passages of play and we scored some good goals.

“I’m pleased with the result and the performance, and so we move on to Easter Monday now and see what that brings.

“It’s all about staying positive, given the position we’re in.”

After a rather pedestrian start at Deepdale, the hosts created the first opportunity when Andrew Hughes pounced on a loose ball in the Millers box, only for his effort to be blocked by keeper Viktor Johansson.

Holmes then celebrated his return to the starting line-up by opening the scoring in the 22nd minute, darting in to coolly convert a cross from Robbie Brady.

With half-time approaching, Preston deservedly doubled their advantage when Riis took a touch from Mads Frokjaer’s cross before slotting past Johansson.

Five minutes later he struck again from close range to make it 3-0.

With the game wrapped up by half-time, the second half was a much quieter affair, with Preston looking the more likely team to score.

Rotherham could now be mathematically relegated on Easter Monday, when they host Millwall, but manager Leam Richardson wants the team to keep battling.

He said: “We know what moment we’re in here, and this club is massively in transition, I think we can all see that.

“But that’s not really what the fans want to hear – I feel for all of our fans right now.

“We’ve all got to represent ourselves and this club much better than we have been doing.

“If you’re not bang at it in this division, if you’re not at 100 per cent all the time, you know you’re going to be in for a tough ride.

“That’s what’s happened here again.

“It’s about me trying to get some confidence into the players and trying my best to give the team some kind of identity. Maybe then we can get better results.

“We certainly don’t want to be going out of this division with a whimper.

“I want everyone to stick together and show a bit more belief and confidence in these final few remaining games of the season.”

Luke McNally scored a late winner as Stoke boosted their survival hopes with a 2-1 Championship victory over play-off hopefuls Preston at Deepdale.

Andrew Hughes was unfortunate to put into his own goal after 64 minutes to give Steven Schumacher’s Potters the lead.

Preston substitute Milutin Osmajic’s clever finish – three minutes later – levelled matters before McNally’s 87th-minute winner clinched a surprise victory in Lancashire to take them three points clear of the relegation zone.

Ryan Lowe’s side’s play-off hopes were dented as they fell to their first defeat since January and now lie five points off the top six.

The hosts were first to threaten to break the deadlock in the 19th minute when their penalty claims were dismissed after in-form striker Emil Riis latched onto a smart Alan Browne ball in the box, but slipped under pressure from defender Ben Wilmot.

The travelling Potters were made to wait until the 37th minute before their first shot on goal, as Bae Junho collected a loose ball deep in the Lilywhites’ half and had a low effort easily collected by goalkeeper Freddie Woodman.

Schumacher’s men then tested Woodman’s gloves again only five minutes later, when forward Tyrese Campbell’s quick right-sided run allowed him to release a tame strike on goal from the near post.

Preston looked rather more comfortable following the break and had another strong call for a penalty denied in the 54th minute after Riis excellently flicked in Browne, who stumbled under pressure on the right-hand side of the box.

Lynden Gooch should have put the visitors ahead two minutes later when he picked up Preston midfielder Mads Frokjaer’s loose pass by the near post, but Woodman just about managed to parry the former Sunderland player’s strike.

But the former Premier League side’s pressure paid dividends in the 64th minute as Gooch whipped in a venomous ball from the left wing and Hughes opened the scoring with an own goal.

Yet that lead only lasted for around four minutes before Hughes worked to cancel out his mistake. Preston achieved parity through Osmajic, who flicked Hughes’ left-sided cross under former North End goalkeeper Daniel Iversen.

Preston then almost carved out a lead of their own in the 82nd minute when midfielder Ben Whiteman was slipped in one-on-one by via a counter attack, yet his effort was excellently saved by Iversen.

The hosts were left to rue that missed opportunity only five minutes later as they failed to clear a Lewis Baker free-kick and McNally poked the ball home following a defensive mix-up to edge Stoke into the lead.

A boisterous home support willed their side on for a much-needed equaliser, but none was forthcoming as the Lilywhites’ seven-match unbeaten run came to an end.

Ryan Lowe felt his Preston side were denied a clear penalty as they were held to a 0-0 draw at home by fellow play-off hopefuls Hull at Deepdale.

In a Sky Bet Championship game that did not help either side’s promotion ambitions, Lowe was adamant that his team should have been awarded a spot-kick early in the second half for a pull on Will Keane as he looked to pounce following Ryan Allsop’s save from Emil Riis.

It was not given, and while Preston had the better of the chances, they had to settle for just a point in their bid for a place in the top-six.

Lowe said: “I thought we deserved a penalty, a decision has gone against us that has probably not seen us take all three points. Unfortunately for us it hasn’t been given, but it’s a penalty.

“Will Keane has been pulled back and Keano’s been pulled right around, but maybe the referee is used to reffing in the Premier League…he’s used to someone speaking in his ear, stop and then decide what to do.

“I don’t know, but the fact of the matter is that 11 decisions have gone against us this season and three for us.

“It’s become a little bit of a concern, because if it goes into 14-15, then it’s costing us points.”

He added: “I thought we were excellent, with and without the ball. I think we kept their front three quiet, I thought our defenders were immense.

“There was only one team on the front foot trying to win the game of football and that was us.”

Ben Whiteman had a couple of early chances for Preston but did not overly trouble Allsop, while Freddie Woodman had to be alert in goal at the other end to deny Fabio Carvalho.

Preston threatened early in the second half, Andrew Hughes heading over and Whiteman seeing a shot deflected wide, before Riis’ attempt and the contentious follow-up.

At the other end, Jaden Philogene was somehow denied by Woodman while Allsop produced some late heroics to earn the visitors a point, to the delight of boss Liam Rosenior.

He said: “It was a hard-fought, physical, winter battle.

“I’m delighted with the players’ attitude, but I felt if we’d have had a little bit more calmness in our play, which is hard to do when you come away from home, then we would have come away with a win.

“I thought the players stood up really, really well to the challenge, but obviously I’m disappointed not to win the game.

“There’s a lot on the line, we have to remember Preston are in great form. You could sense in the stadium the energy of the team and what a big game it was for them to push up to us.

“I felt after the first 10 minutes we played our football and we controlled the game and looked like a real threat. But we just couldn’t get the goal and that’s a real shame.

“The game plan was to make it our game, we worked all week on trying to stop balls coming into our box, but then trying to control the game by making it our game.

“It’s a brave thing I’m asking the players to do. We made mistakes, but we just couldn’t get the goal our play deserved.”

New Blackburn boss John Eustace was left with plenty of positives from their derby draw at Preston despite seeing the home side fight back from 2-0 down at Deepdale.

After tasting defeat on his return to Birmingham in midweek, Eustace must have felt his maiden Rovers win was on the way after first-half strikes from Sammie Szmodics and Sam Gallagher put them in charge against their Lancashire rivals.

Rovers were unable to hold on, with play-off chasing Preston hitting back just before the break to level through goals from Robbie Brady and Emil Riis, but Eustace was nevertheless heartened by his team’s performance.

“I’m very proud of the effort of the group,” he said. “The way they dug in with a few difficult moments was very rewarding.

“We wanted three points with the way we started, it was exceptional. We executed the game plan and the first half an hour was very good.

“There were a few tired bodies, you could see that and the decision-making a couple of times towards the end of the half cost us.

“It’s disappointing, but there are a lot of positives to take from the game. The way we dug in, the way we stuck together, the way we defended a very physical team. I think this group of players have been questioned for that level of commitment to keep the ball out of the net and I think they did that.

“It’s a good point against a good team.

“There’s no feeling of what might have been because you don’t have any divine right to win any games.

“You have to battle and keep the ball out for 95 minutes.

“We were always going to be under bits of pressure. It was really disappointing to concede two set-pieces. We need to get better at that.

“We’ve got quality players and quality going forward and we showed that. Overall, I’m very happy with the effort of the players.”

Szmodics overtook Plymouth’s Morgan Whittaker at the top of the Championship scoring charts as he gave Rovers an early lead and Gallagher sent the visiting fans into scenes of jubilation with a neat flick in the 23rd minute.

But a four-minute burst scuppered their victory charge with Brady’s stunning strike opening his account for the season and Riis scrambling home his third goal in as many games to draw the hosts level.

“It’s a good point in a local derby,” said Preston boss Ryan Lowe.

“It’s frustrating. When we were in the ascendency and got two goals back, there only looked to be one winner and that was us.

“We were camped out in their half. When you’re two goals down and get back to 2-2, you’ve got to be pleased with the point.

“I was disappointed with the two goals.

“Both sets of teams were out on their feet at the end.

“It wasn’t for a lack of trying. I thought the lads were fantastic in sticking to it.

“It ends up being a bit of a dogged performance in the end. We played a lot of football to try and get our way in. It’s a point in the right direction at the end.

“They were mistakes and individual errors really. I’m not going to fault the players.

“When you’ve got one of the best players in the league through on goal he’s going to score. You can’t give those types of goals away.

“We had to deal with the ball down the side for the second as well. We need to find solutions for next time.”

John Eustace’s wait for a first win at Blackburn goes on after Preston battled back to claim a 2-2 draw in an entertaining Lancashire derby clash at Deepdale.

Eustace, whose first game in charge of Rovers ended in defeat at former club Birmingham, saw his side let a 2-0 lead slip but still dented Preston’s play-off aspirations.

All four goals came in the first half as Sammie Szmodics regained his place as the Championship’s top scorer before Sam Gallagher doubled the visitors’ lead.

But Robbie Brady’s 39th-minute strike and Emil Riis’ effort four minutes later secured Ryan Lowe’s hosts a point.

Eustace made two changes from the side which lost at St Andrew’s as John Fleck made his debut and Scott Wharton returned to the starting line-up, while North End remained unchanged from the side that beat Middlesbrough to earn a third successive win.

Blackburn arrived at Deepdale off the back of a turbulent few weeks but they quickly hit the front as star man Szmodics, who had already lashed an effort wide, opened the scoring after just seven minutes.

The 28-year-old overtook Plymouth’s Morgan Whittaker at the top of the second-tier scoring charts as he raced on to Gallagher’s flick on and coolly slotted beyond Freddie Woodman.

Down the other end, Liam Millar cut onto his left foot but could only tamely hit straight at Aynsley Pears.

Fleck’s debut lasted just 17 minutes before he was forced of with injury but Rovers were soon celebrating a second goal.

Gallagher sent the visiting fans into scenes of jubilation when he got in behind from Callum Brittain’s defence-splitting pass and converted with a neat flick in the 23rd minute.

It could have been three when Szmodics forced Woodman into a decent save after Brittain’s free-kick was cleared into his path.

But a four-minute burst saw the Lilywhites level before the break.

The first goal was a fine curling first-time finish from Brady, a stunning strike to open his account for the season.

And Riis scrambled home his third goal in as many games to draw the hosts level on the stroke of half-time.

Referee David Webb was jeered with chants of “you’re not fit to referee” from both sets of supporters after a break in play with an injury.

The momentum was all with the hosts after a scintillating end to the first half and Riis fashioned a chance for Brady with a cheeky backheel, but a pivotal Blackburn block kept the scores level.

Mads Frokjaer then smashed a 20-yard volley over as Preston continued to press.

Dangerous Danish striker Riis nodded an Alan Browne cross straight at Pears, who then produced an important stoppage-time save to keep out Browne’s header and help earn a point for his side.

Preston manager Ryan Lowe believes the anniversary of Sir Tom Finney’s death inspired his side to their 2-1 victory over Middlesbrough.

The club marked the 10th anniversary of the death of the Preston and England great by sporting special edition kits in honour of the famous number seven.

An ovation in the seventh minute seemed to rouse the Lilywhites and goals from Liam Millar and Emil Riis took them to the brink of the play-offs.

“It did give us extra motivation,” said Lowe. “We wanted to have a bit of a celebration because I think that’s what it was, we wanted to show the family and our fans what we can do.

“It was important that we got a win on the back of that because there can be too much pressure on it.

“I’ve obviously got to be mindful of the fact that we have a game to play and try and win and it was a great occasion.

“We kept it simple, we knew what we were here to do, we respected the occasion and I think we’ve sent the Finney family and all of our fans home happy.”

The Lilywhites went in front in the 23rd minute when Millar brought down Matt Clarke’s attempted clearance with his right foot and fired a left-footed shot past Tom Glover from just outside the box.

Boro continued to push for a leveller and it arrived through Finn Azaz in the 57th minute, opening his account for the club with a rocket of a shot into the top corner from 20 yards out.

Boro soon found themselves behind again, though, with Riis tapping home on the hour-mark – his sixth goal in as many games for Preston against Boro – after Will Keane’s shot deflected and fell kindly to him.

It earned Lowe’s side their third league win in a row and they are outside of the top six only on goal difference.

“The lads are dead on their feet, they’ve worked their socks off,” said Lowe. “Their resilience, wow, it’s massively pleasing.

“Sometimes you can’t help but drop the way we dropped and soak it up. We gave the ball away a couple of times, or more than a couple of times, to let them have penetration on us and we need to nullify it and stop it.

“But then for us to show that resilience and character and desire to get right back into the game right afterwards (after the equaliser) was massively pleasing.”

Boro, meanwhile, are without a win in four Championship games and have slipped seven points adrift of the play-off places.

“I think it’s a tough result to take for sure,” said manager Michael Carrick. “I think the results definitely aren’t going our way. I thought tonight we definitely deserved an awful lot more from the game.

“But we’re not getting it, so we need to accept that and we’ve got to do something about it.

“I can’t fault the boys in terms of effort. Some of the quality of the play was really, really good, but we’ve definitely not got the balance between performance and results at the moment.

“They hadn’t had a touch in our box and we were 1-0 down today. That was the only time they’d gone up there.

“It’s happened probably two or three times over the last six weeks or so. With that, there’s a lot of good things.

“There’s a lot of good things in the game, but those moments are going against us and we have to accept that and we’ve got to do something about it.”

Preston moved to within goal difference of the Sky Bet Championship play-offs after beating Middlesbrough 2-1 to claim a third consecutive win.

Emil Riis scored the winner in the 60th minute after Finn Azaz’s superb strike cancelled out Liam Millar’s first-half opener.

The victory secures a vital three points for Preston on a night when the club marked the 10th anniversary of the death of Sir Tom Finney with a rousing seventh-minute applause.

The visitors started well and nearly took the lead in the 11th minute, when Sam Greenwood’s deflected shot forced a good save out of Freddie Woodman after an interception from defender Greg Cunningham – an early substitute for the injured Andrew Hughes – fell into his path.

The pressure kept on building thereafter and it was completely against the run of play that the Lilywhites, sporting a special edition kit in memory of Finney, went in front in the 23rd minute.

Millar brought down Matt Clarke’s attempted clearance with his right foot and fired a left-footed shot past Tom Glover from just outside the box.

Leeds loanee Greenwood came close to equalising just beyond the half-hour mark, but his well-struck effort from distance went narrowly wide.

Shortly after the half-time interval, January signing Azaz’s attempt deflected wide as Boro continued to push for the leveller.

And it arrived through the same player in the 57th minute, opening his account for the club with a rocket of a shot into the top corner from 20 yards out.

Boro soon found themselves behind again, though, with Riis tapping home on the hour-mark – his sixth goal in as many games for Preston against Boro – after Will Keane’s shot fell very kindly to him.

Michael Carrick’s side did not let their heads drop and came close to equalising once more moments later, with captain Jonny Howson’s attempt only being directed off target by a defensive header.

Woodman had to be alert again in the 70th minute to keep out Marcus Forss’ volley from close range.

Luke Thomas worked space for a shot inside the final 10 minutes, but the Leicester loanee dragged his attempt past the post and that proved to be their last real opportunity.

Preston are now in ninth place on 48 points – level with sixth-placed Coventry, seventh-placed Norwich and eighth-placed Hull – while Boro are seven points back.

Ryan Lowe lauded Emil Riis after the striker scored his first goal in more than 15 months to help Preston win 2-0 at Cardiff in the Sky Bet Championship.

The Danish forward fired beyond Jak Alnwick in the 30th minute to put the Lilywhites ahead against the run of play at Cardiff City Stadium – with Ben Whiteman notching Preston’s second five minutes before the break.

It was Riis’ first goal since returning from a year-long lay-off due to a knee injury, with his last strike coming against Middlesbrough in October 2022.

And boss Lowe said Preston are doing everything in their power to mould Riis into the “perfect” centre-forward.

“We’ve all been waiting for Emil to come back,” said Lowe. “He looked strong physically, I’m pleased with his goal, for him and his team-mates, they’re all pleased for him.

“The build-up to it was fantastic and the way he took it, so I’m really pleased for him. It’s huge to have him back.

“At some point he’s going to have to have a break. We’re just trying to mould him into a perfect striker. But we do need to be careful with him.

“We can’t just slog him all the way through, we’ll manage his days and his loads.

“I’m just pleased for him getting on the scoresheet today after having that long period of time out, as a striker it’s pleasing.”

The Bluebirds controlled the opening 30 minutes but were restricted to efforts from distance, with Kion Etete and Karlan Grant both testing  goalkeeper Freddie Woodman.

But Preston looked far more comfortable after taking the lead, with Cardiff’s new-look squad unable to overly concern Woodman.

Aaron Ramsey returned from a five-month absence owing to a knee injury while Nat Phillips, Famara Diedhiou, Josh Wilson-Esbrand and David Turnbull all made their home debuts for Cardiff.

And Bluebirds boss Erol Bulut, whose side are now winless in their last five home games, called for patience as his new players gel in the team.

“We need patience, all of us,” he said. “We’ve got new players, four or five new players.

“We try to get them adapted to the team quickly. I thought Nat was quite good, Wilson came in, but they have to know their team-mates much better and their movements.

“This will come over the next few games. We have many games in the next few weeks and we have to show it.

“We have to continue to show them what they need to do. I hope the next few games will be much better.”

Defeat in the Welsh capital leaves Cardiff seven points adrift of the Championship’s top six.

Victory – their first on the road in six matches – moved Preston to within two points of the play-off spots.

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