REPORT: PRESTON NORTH END 1, PETERBOROUGH UNITED 0: Set-piece frailty and a poor first half condemns Posh to a second away defeat in the Championship
A close-range header from Patrick Bauer from a Ryan Ledson free kick in the early stages settled the contest and enabled the home side to collect their first points of the season.
They thoroughly deserved the win as Christy Pym, who will have a question to answer about the only goal of the game, was by far the busier ‘keeper.
Preston number one Daniel Iversen saved his one save of the match for the 95th and final minute when he diverted a close-range volley from Jonson Clarke-Harris wide to seal a disappointing return to Deepdale for former Preston manager Darren Ferguson.
Posh made just the one expected change with midfielder Jorge Grant replacing central defensive injury victim Mark Beevers. Nathan Thompson assumed captaincy duties from Beevers and Josh Knight moved back into a back three as Posh chased a first win at this venue for 25 years.
The thought they might not get a better chance arrived with news of a planned fans’ protest after the game from home supporters following a pointless start to the Championship season.
Former Posh defender Andrew Hughes was in the Preston starting line-up. He started as a third centre-back as the hosts matched up the Posh formation.
And they played it in a far superior fashion in the opening 45 minutes with Posh reaching half time lucky to only be a goal behind.
The frailty from set pieces surfaced after just 14 minutes when Bauer headed home from an unmarked position barely six yards from goal with Pym rooted to his goalline.
Pym did much better 10 minutes before the break when saving with his feet after one simple pass between three defenders sent Scott Sinclair racing through on goal. Two minutes earlier Ben Whiteman had been afforded all the time he required on the edge of the Posh area to rattle the crossbar and five minutes before that some dithering at the back saw Knight robbed inside his own penalty area, but Daniel Johnson shot over.
In reply the Posh build-up was painfully slow and any forward progress was interrupted with ease by central defenders stepping in to make challenges against weak opponents.
It took 40 minutes for Posh to register a shot and it was a wild slash under pressure from 20 yards by centre-back Frankie Kent that flew well wide.
To be fair to Kent he was excellent defensively throughout, while Knight also did well to charge down a Whiteman shot. Kent was at his best to stop marauding left wing-back Josh Earl who had burst into the area soon after the only goal.
Thompson moved to the right of the defensive trio for the second-half with Kent moving to the centre, but more importantly the tempo of their passing increased as did the aggression of their defending.
And six minutes after the break Siriki Dembele should have equalised after a wonderful dribble left three defenders and a goalkeeper on their backsides, but from close range he couldn’t get the power into a left foot shot that would surely have defeated Sepp Van Den Berg on the goalline.
Grant then fired a 25 yard free kick over the bar before a Harrison Burrows cross just eluded Clarke-Harris.
But Preston also looked a threat and Pym came to the rescue twice more with his feet to thwart Sinclair from 20 yards and then dangerous substitute Emil Riis from much closer range.
Posh made a double substitution midway through the half and replacements Sammie Szmodics and Jack Marriott almost combined to great effect within a minute, but the former’s cross sailed past the latter.
Marriott’s big chance to equalise arrived 15 minutes from time after an excellent 1-2 with Clarke-Harris and a fine advantage from referee Dean Whitestone, but he scuffed his shot wide from 18 yards.
The first corner of the match arrived in the 72nd minute for Preston and it led to four in a row as Posh defended desperately, and most unconvincingly. Pym made a fine tip over save from a Bauer header.
Johnson and Brad Potts missed great chances to add a second Preston goal at the start of five minutes added time, but Posh also roused themselves in a dramatic finale.
Szmodics couldn’t get enough on a 12-yard strike after a Joel Randall pull-back and with the very last kick of the match a superb Szmodics pass found Clarke-Harris beyond the back four, but Riis was up to the challenge from a stabbed volley executed at full strength.
It was the first save he’d made in the game and it would have been a first Posh corner, but referee Whitestone immediately called time.
Posh: Christy Pym, Dan Butler, Frankie Kent, Nathan Thompson, Josh Knight (sub Joel Randell, 77 mins), Joe Ward, Oliver Norburn, Jorge Grant, Harrison Burrows (sub Sammie Szmodics, 66 mins), Siriki Dembele (sub Jack Marriott, 66 mins), Jonson Clarke-Harris
Unused subs: Dai Cornell, Ronnie Edwards, Joe Tomlinson, Kyle Barker.
Preston: Daniel Iversen, Andrew Hughes, Patrick Bauer, Jordan Storey, Josh Earl, Ben Whiteman, Daniel Johnson, Ryan Ledson, Sepp Van Den Berg, Scott Sinclair (sub Emile Riis, 69 mins), Sean Maguire (sub Brad Potts, 79 mins).
Unused subs: Declan Rudd, Greg Cunningham, Tom Bayliss, Joe Rafferty, Joe Rodwell-Grant.
Goals: Preston (Bauer, 14 mins).
Cautions: Preston - Whiteman (foul), Ledson (delaying the restart). Potts delaying the restart).
Referee: Dean Whitestone 8
Attendance: 9,952 (690 Posh).