Preston North End came from behind to beat Queens Park Rangers 2-1 at Deepdale on Saturday afternoon.
Kazenga LuaLua and Aiden McGeady each scored a fantastic goal for their respective sides in the first-half, but it was Jordan Hugill’s simple tap-in with less than 20 minutes remaining which proved to be the difference for the Lilywhites.
First-half chances were hard to come by for both outfits, with the two defensive banks of five cancelling each other out for much of the opening stages.
The visitors looked the more threatening, as LuaLua dragged a couple of shots wide from range before dinking a through ball across the six-yard area – only for Paul Huntington to clear.
The Lilywhites controlled much of the possession and began to show signs of life after the half hour, as Jordan Hugill’s thumping header was tipped over the bar from Daryl Horgan’s corner.
However, it was the Hoops that took the lead after 37 minutes. The hosts failed to clear from Darnell Furlong’s right-wing delivery, and LuaLua showed great improvisation to backhell home from six yards.
It was something out of nothing for the visitors, but Ian Holloway’s men would have felt the lead was deserved heading into the break.
But the hosts – namely McGeady – produced some unexpected magic of their own with the half-time whistle looming. The Irishman cut inside from deep on the left before unleashing a marvellous curling effort into the far right corner from 25 yards out.
The second-half largely followed a similar pattern, with both sides struggling to break down the opposing defence.
But after Ryan Mannigan had lashed a half volley over within a minute of the restart for QPR, it was the Lilywhites who took the initiative.
Greg Cunningham curled just wide with a first-time effort from the right side of the area before Hugill looped a header over the bar seconds later.
Callum Robinson then saw his tap-in ruled out for offside, with the left-footed defender Cunningham again popping up in an advanced area on the right to provide the delivery.
However, his strike partner Hugill was on onside to score with an identical finish just five minutes later. Tom Clarke had headed towards goal from Horgan’s corner before the PNE number 25 pounced on the goalkeeper’s save to net at the back post.
Preston continued to control proceedings and were helped in closing out the win when Luke Freeman was shown a second yellow card for a stamp on Hugill in the 78th minute.
Simon Grayson’s men might have doubled their advantage in the final minutes, with Joel Lynch heading against his own crossbar before substitute Tom Barkhuizen forced a terrific save from the QPR ‘keeper, but that did not matter as the hosts held on to win.
Preston North End: Maxwell; Clarke, Huntington, Spurr; Horgan (Barkhuizen, 86), Browne, Johnson, Cunningham; McGeady, Hugill, Robinson. Subs not used: Lindegaard, Boyle, Gallagher, Makienok, May and Beckford.
QPR: Smithies; Furlong (Sylla, 66), Onuoha, Lynch, Freeman, Bidwell ; Wszolek, Perch, Manning; Smith (Ngbakoto, 66), LuaLua (Mackie, 72). Subs not used: Ingram, Goss, Luongo and Petrasso.
Attendance: 10,848 (658)
Referee: David Coote (Nottinghamshire)