A hard-working Stevenage fell to a 3-0 defeat at Preston North End this afternoon.
After dominating possession for much of the opening half at Deepdale Boro were unfortunate to be 1-0 down at the break courtesy of a Paul Huntingdon header. And whilst the visitors pushed hard in the second half, further goals from Scott Laird and Kevin Davies secured a 3-0 win for North End.
Graham Westley named the same 16 which featured at Tranmere, with the only change being a recall to the starting XI for Oumare Tounkara in place of Greg Tansey. Preston meanwhile named former Boro players Scott Laird and Joel Byrom in their starting XI with John Mousinho on the bench.
The teams traded early chances with Boro forcing a corner after just 30 seconds and seeing a shot fly wide before Iain Hume saw a back post header bounce down and over the bar after Robin Shroot was robbed down the Stevenage left.
Indeed Boro enjoyed the best of the opening 25 minutes, controlling possession and frustrating their hosts and their fans, much to the delight of the vocal away following behind Day’s goal. Luke Freeman found plenty of joy on the right, often cutting inside Laird but his crosses were either cleared or sailed over the advancing Tounkara.
On the opposite flank Roarie Deacon was also enjoying the chance to get forward, with one bursting run halted illegally on the edge of the Preston box. Shroot’s free-kick was deflected over for a corner as Boro kept up the pressure.
Preston then came mightily close to taking the lead on 26 minutes. A good header into the six yard box found Beavon in space – he spun and hit the bar with Hume’s follow-up header hitting the post before a tame effort trickled wide. A let-off for Stevenage.
Scott Laird hit a right-footed effort straight at Day on the half hour before Boro forged their best chance of the half 10 minutes later. Shroot’s back post header from a Doughty free-kick was forced away by Rudd and Deacon’s follow-up was blocked before his second effort flew over the bar.
And as so often happens in football, the hosts went up the other end and took the lead on the stroke of half time. Joel Byrom was instrumental in the goal, collecting a loose ball from Hartley and releasing
Humphrey before running to meet the Jamaican’s cross and seeing his close range effort deflected behind. Whilst the resulting corner was cleared initially, the ball was lofted back into the box and Paul Huntingdon headed back past Day to give Preston a narrow and perhaps surprising 1-0 lead.
The opening 15 minutes of the second half was as end-to-end firstly with Rudd turning a Tounkara shot behind for a corner and Hartley saw his header saved comfortably by the Preston ‘keeper before Chris Day was called into action at the other end, saving a low effort from Kevin Davies.
Michael Doughty saw a free-kick deflect behind after another foul on Tounkara before Stuart Beavon forced a super save out of Day with a stinging effort from the edge of the box.
Despite pushing forward Boro found themselves two goals down on the hour when Laird met a Chris Humphrey cross with a header from close-range. Shroot came close to halving the deficit moment later with a curling effort but Rudd was equal to it, turning it behind for a corner.
Joel Byrom saw a free-kick fly over the crossbar and Davies saw a header also go over as Preston looked to confirm the points with a third. And indeed it was the former England international who made it 3-0 in the closing minutes, firing home low after controlling a Laird cross.
Luke Jones crashed a header against the crossbar for Stevenage in the final seconds but it was Preston who took all three points to leave Boro to look forward to the visit of Carlisle United at home next weekend.
Preston: Rudd, Humphrey (Welsh 70), Clarke, Huntingdon, Wright, Laird, Keane, Byrom (Mousinho 85), Hume (Holmes 78), Davies, Beavon
Subs not used: Stuckmann, Wroe, Buchanan, Garner
Boro: Day, Gray, Ashton, Hartley (Jones 68), Deacon, Heslop (Tansey 61), Doughty, Smith (Wedgbury 61), Shroot, Freeman, Tounkara
Subs not used: Arnold, Hills, Burrow, Lopez
Attendance: 8,855 (118 away)