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.”

Play-off hopefuls Preston and Hull drew a frustrating blank with a 0-0 draw at Deepdale that did neither club any favours.

Preston boss Ryan Lowe knew victory for the ambitious Lilywhites would see them go level with the Tigers in the Sky Bet Championship table.

However, neither team could create the one piece of magic needed for a precious three points.

Lowe stuck with the same side which dazzled with an impressive 3-0 away win over Coventry.

His team had rediscovered the rich vein of form which saw them make a flying start to the season, although they had failed to score in their past three matches with the Tigers.

However, Lowe’s battlers created enough opportunities to score and stretched their healthy unbeaten run to seven matches, even though they failed to find the back of the net.

Meanwhile, Liam Rosenior’s side extended their unbeaten own run to five games, staying sixth in the table.

Midfielder Ben Whiteman went close for the hosts early on, slicing wide of the target from a good position. Moments later he had another crack, only to fail to get any power his strike as Hull goalkeeper Ryan Allsop saved easily.

Lewie Coyle volleyed wide with a powerful effort for the visitors, before Fabio Carvalho tried his luck from distance with a stinging drive which Preston shot-stopper Freddie Woodman did well to parry away.

Anass Zaroury saw his goalbound shot deflected just wide as Hull went close to breaking the deadlock just before the break.

Carvalho had a great chance a minute later to do just that, but he headed straight at a thankful Woodman.

Liam Miller picked out Jordan Storey with a pinpoint cross on the stroke of half-time, but he headed over for the hosts.

Preston defender Andrew Hughes headed over soon after the restart and Whiteman had a shot deflected narrowly wide.

Striker Emil Riis was thwarted by a smart save from Allsop, while at the other end Coyle smashed a right foot shot agonisingly wide of the left upright.

Jaden Philogene thought he had bagged the opening goal but the midfielder was left bewildered after Woodman produced a fine save to deny him.

Whiteman shot wide as the hosts kept pressing and Ali McCann had a volley blocked inside the box, but the ball still would not go in.

Allsop saved brilliantly from Miller with 10 minutes left as neither side could find the breakthrough which would have yielded three points.

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.

Substitute striker Will Keane struck a sweet double as Preston claimed a 2-0 home win against Bristol City.

The former Manchester United forward made a fine impact from the bench with two goals in the space of 23 second-half minutes as the Lilywhites claimed their first league win since Boxing Day.

Victory also saw Ryan Lowe’s side end a worrying run of four defeats in their last five Championship matches having made a flying start to the season.

Defeat for the Robins means they have now not won in their last four matches and last won at Deepdale 13 years ago.

Defender Taylor Gardner-Hickman came close to giving the visitors an early lead but saw his goal-bound shot superbly saved by Preston goalkeeper Freddie Woodman.

Montenegro striker Milutin Osmajic tried his luck from the outside of the box with the hosts’ first chance after 19 minutes, but his right-foot strike flew wide of the left-hand upright.

Irish forward Jason Knight thought he had put Bristol City ahead with a thunderous strike, but Preston shot-stopper Woodman pulled off a fine save to tip his effort over the crossbar.

Defender Rob Dickie also saw a header saved by the home keeper, who found himself too busy for his own liking.

Zak Vyner rifled a fierce right-foot shot wide of the right-hand post as the visitors kept pressing for the opener, before Knight smashed over the bar with another excellent chance.

Albanian forward Anis Mehmeti saw his left-foot shot saved by Woodman, who was having a fine afternoon between the posts.

At the other end, Canadian midfielder Liam Millar was denied by a smart block from Robins keeper Max O’Leary, while midfielder Duane Holmes fired over with an angled drive.

Keane, fellow striker Emil Riis and attacking midfielder Mads Frokjaer-Jensen were introduced to spice things up for Preston.

And it worked as they found a spring in their step and were in front for the first time 20 minutes after the triple substitution.

Keane needed just two minutes for his first chance of the afternoon, O’Leary pulling off a fine block to stop his shot flying into the top corner.

The forward went close again five minutes later, firing wide from close range when he probably should have done better.

Mehmeti shot wide for the visitors and had an effort well-saved by Woodman, before Keane finally made the breakthrough.

His clinical strike from the centre of the goal was too good for O’Leary – and not long afterwards he doubled the home side’s advantage.

Frokjaer-Jensen had a shot saved as the pressure mounted, before Keane fired into the bottom-right corner with a superb left-foot strike for his eighth goal of the season.

Mauricio Pochettino praised Armando Broja as one of the most promising young strikers in Europe after his goal helped Chelsea to a 4-0 FA Cup third-round win over Preston.

The 22-year-old started in place of Nicolas Jackson, who is away at the Africa Cup of Nations, and netted his team’s opening goal early in the second half at Stamford Bridge.

Preston had done a fine job in the first period of containing Chelsea, who lacked cutting edge to go with their domination of the ball, but Broja’s strike was the first of three in an 11-minute spell in the second half.

Will Keane was hounded off the ball inside his own box by Mykhailo Mudryk, who laid it back for Malo Gusto to cross and Broja headed in.

Thiago Silva then nodded in a second before Raheem Sterling quickly lashed a free-kick beyond goalkeeper Freddie Woodman.

Enzo Fernandez knocked in a fourth near the end as the gulf to Ryan Lowe’s side – 14th in the Championship – finally showed.

Pochettino praised the contribution of Broja, who returned to fitness in September after nine months out with an ACL injury, and hinted there is more to come from the Albanian striker.

“It was really important for him,” he said. “I need to be honest, he needs to use this type of game to score and to feel the net and to improve. Improve not only in his fitness but his body language also. He needs to step up and to go forward and to move. He needs to smile more and be more positive.

“The potential is amazing. We’re talking about one of the young strikers in England and in Europe with most potential. But the problem now is he needs to push himself, and we’re going to try to help him to realise that never it is enough.

“He was nearly one year away (injured) and of course now he needs time. It’s not easy for him to perform and to be at the level we expect. Our expectation is massive and we really believe in him. We’re going to push him to improve every day.

“I said to him smile. Always we joke about how he needs to smile, to laugh, to put inside himself more good energy and be more happy, a happy boy.”

Preston boss Lowe reflected on a game that got away from his side in the second half after a promising start.

“The three goals in (11) minutes really hurt us,” he said. “I think for large parts of that game, before the 58th minute when they scored, we were fantastic.

“It is disappointing to lose and I don’t think the result reflects the performance, but the fact is they have good quality players who can put the ball in the back of the net.

“I thought our lads were excellent. They gave it their all and that’s the biggest thing I am pleased about.”

Swansea manager Alan Sheehan urged his players to take confidence from a first home win since October as they edged a late 2-1 Championship victory at home to Preston.

Jamie Paterson completed his brace in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage-time to end Swansea’s run of seven home games without a win and deny North End a valuable away point after Liam Millar cancelled out Paterson’s opener.

As a result, Swansea – who have yet to appoint a permanent successor to Michael Duff – climbed four places to 15th in the table, while interim manager Sheehan has now taken seven points from five games in charge.

“We’re delighted with the win. We haven’t been good enough at home or got enough points but after the playing well and losing against Middlesbrough last time out, tonight was just about doing enough to win the game,” said Sheehan.

“We weren’t fluent with our performance by any stretch. We tried to play it through, looking for the perfect goal but it broke down each time.

“Preston are physical and try to ram it down your throat which we have to deal with. They came to make it hard for us and sometimes you’ve just got to grind it out and two moments of absolute quality from Jamie Paterson won us the game.

“We need to build confidence, resilience and a desire to win from this. When you win and have things to work on then that’s good. It wasn’t pretty but we got the job done and took a valuable three points.”

Preston continued their dramatic slide in form and slipped to ninth, with just one win from their last seven games.

They at least looked to have taken a point from their travels after substitute Millar cancelled out Paterson’s opener with a well-taken curling effort.

However Alistair McCann gave away possession inside his own half to gift Paterson the late winner.

Preston manager Ryan Lowe said: “I’m disappointed and gutted that we just couldn’t see it through to get what would have been a good point.

“I thought we were well worthy of the draw. It was a battling performance, nothing amazing and we dug in.

“We knew Swansea would dominate possession because that’s what they do but we handled their pressure well for long periods but individual errors have cost us.

“We played sideways instead of forwards for the second and left the man unmarked in the box for the first.

“It was disappointing because we had got ourselves right back in the game with a great goal and I felt we were in the ascendency.

“The players have character and effort but there were two lapses of concentration for the goals.

“I have to take responsibility as the manager, I know that and I have to lift myself first because I feel that I’m letting people down and I don’t like doing that.

“We could do with a bit of luck and to get that we need to keep working hard and digging in.”

Jamie Paterson scored an injury-time winner to hand Swansea their first home win in eight games and deny Preston a valuable away point following a narrow 2-1 Championship result.

Neither side could have complained with sharing a draw as a game of little inspiration ticked into added time at Swansea.com Stadium.

Liam Millar had earlier cancelled out Paterson’s first effort before with two brief glimpses of class.

However Alistair McCann gave away possession inside his own half and Swansea at last found a clinical edge as Jay Fulton released Paterson, who struck the winner in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage-time.

Swansea climbed four places to 15th in the table as a result, while Preston continued their dramatic slide in form and slipped to ninth.

Alan Sheehan had been told he would be in charge of Swansea over the Christmas period as the club continues to search for a long-term replacement for Michael Duff.

However the interim manager had urged for clarity over the vacancy, having taken four points from his previous three games in charge.

Sheehan named the same starting XI beaten by Middlesbrough, while Preston counterpart Ryan Lowe made six changes to the side thrashed 5-1 by Watford last time out.

That included a first league start for former Swansea goalkeeper Dai Cornell, who spent six years with his hometown club without playing in the league.

Cornell was first to be pressed into a save when he denied Jamal Lowe from close range following Josh Key’s smart cut back from the right.

Preston, with just one win in six, were limited to a long-range effort from Robbie Brady though should have done better with Duane Holmes’ counter-attack, if not for Alan Browne’s heavy touch.

Harry Darling went close to finishing a sweeping team attack but Swansea’s frustration grew amid the stalemate with Matt Grimes, Lowe, Ben Cabango and Paterson all booked in the space of eight minutes.

Preston’s cause was not helped by losing Brady to injury before half-time, replaced by Millar, though Ched Evans brought a decent save from Carl Rushworth early in the second half.

But it was Swansea who scored first when Grimes found Paterson free on the edge of the box and the striker swept his right-footed shot beyond Cornell.

That prompted a swift response from Preston, who levelled the scores just six minutes later.

Evans attacked deep on the right before Millar gathered the ball on the left, steadied himself and stepped inside Darling to curl his effort beyond Rushworth.

Millar came close to an almost carbon copy second just moments later but this time the Swansea goalkeeper tipped the shot past the post.

Swansea defender Cabango missed a free header in front of goal from a free-kick and the game looked destined for a draw before Paterson struck again in added time to clinch maximum points.

Ryan Lowe bemoaned Preston’s “Jekyll and Hyde” performance as they shipped four second-half goals in a 5-1 Championship defeat at home to Watford.

Will Keane gave the Lilywhites an early lead but Vakoun Bayo levelled just before half-time, precipitating the hosts’ collapse.

Bayo, Matheus Martins, Edo Kayembe and Ismael Kone all struck after the break to earn Watford a second away league win on the bounce.

Lowe said: “In the first half we were fantastic. We looked like we’d carried on from where we left off against Huddersfield.

“I asked the lads at half-time to get on the front foot more, but then straight from the kick-off, one ball through the middle goes on to kill us.

“I think that knocked the stuffing out of us – you have to be solid and hard to break down, but we didn’t see that in the second half today.

“It’s Jekyll and Hyde stuff. The difference between the two halves was incredible really.

“You have to try and keep good teams like Watford at bay, but we gifted them opportunities.

“We have been solid this season, but definitely not today. We can’t let things like this happen. We’ve been punished big time for poor defending.

“I’ve stressed that to the players after the game and they need to take a bit more responsibility.

“Individually and collectively, we just can’t let that happen again.”

Preston continue to struggle at home and have now lost three in a row on their own patch.

They have now lost four of their last six in the Championship and were booed off at the end of the game.

Watford had only scored seven goals in nine away games before the second-half goal glut and have a poor recent record at Deepdale, having won just once on their last 16 visits.

Watford manager Valerien Ismael said: “I’m very pleased with the performance of all the players, of course.

“I’m pleased to see the understanding we’re now getting.

“The players have to learn that ruthless aspect and we saw that today.

“We created a good momentum from early in the game and we saw that focus that you need at a tough place like Preston.

“I can see the evolution after six months.

“This was a typically-tough Championship game, so we knew we’d have to be solid and be ready. It’s about being ruthless too.

“We got off to a great start in the second half and when you see shots go in like that, it gives everyone confidence and belief.

“The momentum definitely changed after half-time but credit goes to all the players because it’s given us and the fans a great feeling.

“At the moment we’ll just keep the focus on the games we have. We have a lot in the next couple of weeks running up to the new year and our job is to make sure we keep performing.

“After that, we will have a clearer picture of where we are.”

Ryan Lowe described his side’s performance as “different class from start to finish” as Preston returned to winning ways with a 3-1 Championship victory at Huddersfield.

Goals from captain Alan Browne, Will Keane and Ben Whiteman earned North End a first win in five games, leaving Town still one place above the relegation zone.

“Every single individual and collectively as a team, we were fantastic,” said Lowe. “And the goals were well worked.

“When you win away from home and score three goals you would be foolish not to be happy.

“The plan was to get after them early doors. We knew we would have large parts of possession and the game plan was a lot different (to Norwich last Saturday).

“The lads executed the game plan to a tee. So, credit to them. They went out and performed.

“I have always had faith in the lads, some people may not and have doubts. That is fine.

“But what we are and what we are trying to do is obviously pleasing. And when you get a win like that the relief is massive.

“We have to believe in ourselves and believe in the group.

“We said at half-time 2-0 is a tough scoreline and I am disappointed with the goal.

“We had to get a foothold in the game again with the third one – it took the stuffing out of them.”

Huddersfield’s defeat was their first in five games and manager Darren Moore admitted: “We were not good enough.

“The performance wasn’t what we wanted or expected.

“If the performance isn’t there, you can’t expect to win games.

“It serves as a reminder for us that we cannot perform like that and expect to get anything out of the game. That is me as a manager being honest.

“We know at Huddersfield Town we can’t approach any games and be off the pace or the tempo.

“We know in order to win games and get results then we have got to get everything right.”

Moore made three changes at half-time to try and bring Town back into the game and Danny Ward’s first of the season gave the Terriers hope.

But he admitted: “We felt to get some impetus I could have made some changes after 20 minutes but I waited until half-time.

“That’s probably the most animated you have seen me to keep the team in the game and on the front foot.

“But we will look back and see how we could have put the wrongs right because we are consistently learning together as a group.”

Preston returned to winning ways with a 3-1 victory at struggling Huddersfield.

Skipper Alan Browne and Will Keane gave Ryan Lowe’s side a 2-0 interval lead.

Danny Ward’s first goal of the season hinted at a second-half revival for opponents still hovering just above the drop zone.

But instead, Ben Whiteman’s 66th-minute goal wrapped up a first win in five for the Lancashire outfit and one-time leaders of the division.

It proved a good night too for ex-Terrier Duane Holmes, who claimed two assists on his return to the John Smith’s Stadium to help end Town’s draw-peppered, four-game unbeaten run.

Preston’s recent profligacy in front of goal had contributed to their drop from their lofty early-season position.

But within the opening three minutes Browne fired fractionally wide, had a strong appeal for a penalty rejected and then headed in North End’s first goal in four games – just their second in five.

Holmes crossed from the left and Browne glanced in his third goal of the campaign.

The stunned Terriers almost responded immediately. Delano Burgzorg powered forward but his angled drive could not beat Freddie Woodman at his near post.

A brace of Whiteman blocks protected Woodman from further action while Josh Koroma miscued a right-foot curled effort as the visitors briefly relinquished control.

But normal service was soon restored with North End  bossing possession and then six minutes from half-time deservedly doubling their advantage.

Lively Liam Millar collected the ball just inside the home half and raced towards the area before playing a delicious pass with the outside of his right foot into Keane’s path.

The striker took aim immediately and directed a shot beyond ex-Preston and Blackpool keeper Chris Maxwell for his fifth goal of the campaign and his first since September 2.

Huddersfield fans responded with boos and then again at the break. Boss Darren Moore had also lost patience, taking off Tom Lees, Josh Austerfield and Koroma at half-time and replacing them with Yuta Nakayama, Ben Wiles and Jaheim Headley.

The triple substitution did the trick and nine minutes later Town reduced their deficit. Matty Pearson supplied a cross from the Preston left and Ward, three days after his 33rd birthday, rose unchallenged to open his account for the campaign.

Ward, sidelined for a large part of this season with Achilles trouble, had not scored since a winner against Sheffield United last May to keep his club in the second tier.

It was almost the striker’s last contribution as Brahima Diarra replaced him for the final half hour.

But after looking vulnerable, the Lilywhites confirmed the three points. Millar and Holmes combined to tee-up Whiteman to guide a right-foot shot beyond Maxwell for his second goal of the term.

QPR boss Marti Cifuentes was thrilled with how Ilias Chair channelled his frustration at not starting by creating both goals in the 2-0 win over Preston at Deepdale.

Struggling Rangers have now won two in a row for the first time all season, under recently-appointed boss Cifuentes, who feels his side are starting to find their feet.

And it was the half-time introduction of Moroccan international Chair that made the difference at Deepdale, as the midfielder set up Paul Smyth and Chris Willock in the second half.

The manager said: “I spoke to Ilias at half-time and told him we desperately needed fresh legs out there.

“He wasn’t happy that he hadn’t started the game of course, but that’s what I want.

“I want players here who are disappointed to be on the bench.

“He’s got lots of really strong attributes and he was terrific. I felt confident at half-time that he could contribute.

“The identity of the team is really coming on.

“It’s great to be winning, and though it is small steps at this stage of the season, I can see real progress since I came to the job.

“I’m not looking at the league table at the moment.

“It’s far too early for that.

“Maybe in April we’ll look and see where we are, but for now, it’s just about trying to pick up as many points as possible.

“The team is performing well right now, and we don’t necessarily have to be dominant all the time.

“I’m pleased that I can see a clear picture now of how we want to play.

“I’ll be using all the players, and that can be the difference as we move further into the season.”

Preston missed the chance to move back into the top six as they slumped to a third straight loss, despite Ched Evans having the best chance of the opening stages, tamely shooting straight at Asmir Begovic from Mads Frokjaer’s cross.

Duane Holmes also looked lively for Preston, but one of his dangerous crosses was just beyond Will Keane as neither side could find a way through on a bitterly cold evening.

The introduction of Chair proved the difference, his dangerous in-swinging cross poked home from close range by Smyth.

Freddie Woodman then denied the Moroccan a goal of his own, but he ensured they would come away with all three points, crossing for the unmarked Willock to seal the deal three minutes from time, leaving Preston boss Ryan Lowe with plenty to ponder.

He said: “It’s a tough one to take.

“Both teams were a little bit flat I thought, especially in that first half, but we needed to raise our game maybe 10 or 15 per cent, and we just didn’t do that over the course of the rest of the game.

“They raised their game in the second half, and this is what happens.

“Overall we’re all very disappointed, but I’m scratching my head a bit right now.”

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