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Preston Take Slim Advantage to Deepdale

7 May 2015

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Chesterfield attacked with verve and vigour to do everything but score, as an early Preston goal gave the visitors a 1-0 first leg play-off advantage

The Lilywhites showed few signs of Sunday's disappointment as they quickly took the game to Chesterfield. They had the lead after six minutes when Jermaine Beckford fed onto a ball from the right and finished calmly to give the visitors the early advantage.

The goal saw the Spireites push on with relentless waves of breathtaking attacking play, stretching to half time and then after the interval. However, the early goal seperated the sides at full time, the teams lining up for the second leg at Deepdale on Sunday. 

Preston raced out of the traps and from the off had the Spireites on the back-foot in the opening minutes. Indeed the Lilywhites took the lead after they regained possession and quickly looked for Beckford, who had run between Sam Hird and Tendayi Darikwa. With Tommy Lee bearing down on him the striker lofted a cute finish over the 'keeper and into the net. 

With the away side maintaining their early momentum Garner tested Lee's handling, cutting in to fire a low shot, the Spireites struggling to get a foothold in the match.

With 15 minutes gone, the hosts started to come out of their shell and Dan Gardner flicked a cross marginally behind Sam Clucas before the Spireites began their forward push.

The push rarely relented in the remainder of the first half, and after Paul Gallagher had a snatched shot blocked, Jay O'Shea half-hit a shot that went wide when it could have gone in with a cleaner connection.

Ryan then struck a long-range effort well over the crossbar, the same player then having a shot well saved by Sam Johnstone.

To cap a strong response after going behind, the Spireites ended the first half with another chance, this time falling to Gardner who struck right-footed well - but too close to the 'keeper.

There was a nervy moment two minutes after the interval when an altercation between Ryan and Gallagher saw the referee consulting with his assistant, call the two players across, but only give yellow cards to the two of them.

The Lilywhites again started the half well and it took Beckford to fire home from inside the box on the hour mark before Chesterfield felt their way back into the ascendancy.

A minute later the Spireites went within a whisker when a memorising Gary Roberts run saw the attacker glide past Preston men and into the box, on his left foot he struck low, but tantalisingly wide of the far post.

Gardner then had a penalty appeal turned down, O'Shea pulled a 25-yard effort wide and Clucas was then a half foot too short to reach Gardner's whipped-in cross.

Gardner was the architect again on 68 minutes, turning his defender back and forth before delivering a centre that Clucas nodded down towards Roberts, who was within a hair's breadth of being able to tap home from a couple of yards out.

A second Clucas header caused panic in the visiting penalty area minutes later and as the second shot was hit goalwards Johnstone had to react like lightning to make a fine scrambling save and keep his side ahead.

The best Chesterfield chance of the evening arrived with seven minutes of normal time remaining, Hird's long ball was controlled with class by Clucas, who then crossed high and over the 'keeper to Ollie Banks at the back post. Four yards out the substitute just needed to control his finish, but unable to do so the ball looped high and over the bar.

Into added time and the Spireites' relentless pressure nearly found its desired effect when an area ricochet fell to Sam Morsy, but as had been so often the case during the night, his effort was blocked by a brave Preston defender.

Unable to get the breakthrough so often threatened, Chesterfield will head to Deepdale on Sunday with a one-goal deficit but the belief that they have the ability to turn it around.

Chesterfield: Lee (gk), Jones, Evatt, Hird, Darikwa, Morsy (c), Ryan, Roberts, O'Shea (Gnanduillet 88'), Gardner (Banks 76'), Clucas. 

Subs not used: Talbot, Raglan, Ariyibi, Humphreys, Harrison

Preston North End: Johnstone, Laird (Kilkenny 79'), Clarke (c), Wright, Humphrey, Beckford (Robinson 87'), Gallagher (Woods 79'), Garner, Welsh, Huntington, Johnson.

Subs not used: Wiseman, Davies, Stuckmann, Hugill

Goals:

Preston North End: Beckford 6'

Attendance: 8,409 (1,458 away fans)

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