A second-half penalty from Alan Browne saw the Sky Blues fall to a 1-0 defeat against Preston North End at St. Andrew’s.
In a game that saw both teams share the chances between them, it was an unlucky defensive mix-up that saw the visitors awarded the penalty, which the Preston skipper converted.
The Sky Blues were looking for their fourth consecutive win as they lined up in the sun against Preston, with Mark Robins made four changes from Wednesday night’s win over Stoke. Max Biamou and Viktor Gyokeres’ goal scoring exploits were rewarded with starting beths.
As both teams battled it out for a mid-table position, the game was one of few chances until Max Biamou met Gus Hamer’s innovative chipped cross, with 20 minutes on the clock. Turning his marker, Hamer played a precise lofted pass into a challenging area that saw ‘keeper Daniel Iversen rooted to the spot. Meeting the ball at full throttle, however, Biamou could only power the ball wide from a few yards out.
Encouraged by Max’s earlier effort, City seized control of the game. With dangerous crosses constantly testing Preston’s backline, both Gus Hamer and Sam McCallum saw goal-bound shots denied by courageous defensive blocks.
Despite a dominant spell, Ben Wilson was required to repeat his midweek acrobatics as he denied a shot from Ryan Ledson flying in from distance. Following a Preston corner, the ball came out to the midfielder who sweetly struck the ball towards the top corner, only to be met by the outstretched hand of the flying Sky Blues ‘keeper.
Preston’s Sean Maguire was arguably handed the biggest chance of the half, with less than 10 minutes before the break. A long throw from the right flank was flicked on at the near post and met by Maguire in the centre of the goal, inside the six-yard box, but the striker somehow guided his header wide of Wilson’s goal.
However, City refused to let the visitors end the half in the ascendancy. Falling to Biamou in the box once again, the striker controlled the ball 12 yards out, turned his marker and unleashed a fierce drive, but it thundered against a Preston defender.
There was still time for Matty James to go close to opening the scoring, just as the fourth official announced additional time. After McCallum had won a header on the left, the ball bounced and rolled into midfield, sitting up nicely for James to hit a perfectly timed half-volley that whistled on to the roof of the net.
HALF-TIME: SKY BLUES 0-0 PRESTON NORTH END
The game adopted a similarly stop-start rhythm for the start of the second-half, with the first chance falling to Ched Evans in the 56th minute. Receiving a knock-down after a long ball from the ‘keeper, Evans swivelled and fired a volley from 30 yards, as he looked to catch Wilson off his line, but the City stopper was equal to it.
A defensive mix-up saw the Sky Blues concede a penalty midway through the half. Calling for the ball from a Preston cross, an unfortunate bounce saw Wilson misjudge the flight of the ball and foul Evans, who was otherwise through on goal. Preston captain Alan Browne stepped up to the spot, calmly slotting into the City net, to give his side the lead.
With less than 10 minutes on the clock, Mark Robins opted to go all-out for an equaliser. Utilising all five substitutes, three almost combined to put City back on level terms. A smart touch from Amadou Bakayoko laid the ball off to Josh Eccles, whose through ball narrowly failed to split the Preston defence and put Tyler Walker through on goal.
FULL-TIME:SKY BLUES 0-1 PRESTON NORTH END
Goals: Alan Browne (67’)
Yellows: Gus Hamer, Ryan Ledson, Fankaty Dabo
Sky Blues XI: Ben Wilson (GK), Julien Dacosta (Dabo, 74’), Michael Rose, Kyle McFadzean (C), Dom Hyam, Sam McCallum, Matty James, Gus Hamer (Eccles, 61’), Callum O’Hare (Bakayoko, 74’), Viktor Gyokeres (Walker, 61’), Max Biamou (Godden, 61’).
Unused Subs: Marko Marosi (GK), Jack Burroughs, Jordan Shipley, Jamie Allen.
Preston North End XI: Daniel Iversen (GK), Sepp Van den Berg, Liam Lindsay, Jordan Storey, Andrew Hughes, Alan Browne (C), Ben Whiteman (Potts, 79’), Ryan Ledson, Sean Maguire (Jakobsen, 66’), Tom Barkhuizen, Ched Evans (Bayliss, 90').
Unused Subs: Connor Ripley (GK), Greg Cunningham, Paul Huntington, Jayson Molumby, Anthony Gordon, Scott Sinclair.