A cameo from Danny Mayor saw Preston North End make it six league wins on the spin with a 2-1 win over Tranmere Rovers at Deepdale.
The young winger came off the bench to score the winner and his first ever league goal before returning after Paul Parry was dismissed.
Phil Brown was impressed with Mayor’s impact; “That’s probably the best substitution I’ve made in my career.
“Give Tranmere credit, they threw the kitchen sink at us late on. They are a very dangerous team.
Brown did suggest that the opening penalty was questionable; “I thought it was maybe a little bit harsh.”
His opposite number Les Parry concurred; “There’s a reason we lost it, that’s obviously the referee.
“We showed a ten minute DVD of Mellor going down easy.
“He (Goodison) only put his hand on his (Mellor) shoulder. It’s not a penalty.”
The performance was slightly unconvincing and the visitors often upstaged their more illustrious hosts.
The bumper crowd of 17,821 were frustrated for long periods despite the success of ‘PNE day’.
It was Preston who took the lead against the run of play through a Graeme Alexander penalty.
Jose Baxter marked his debut after joining Tranmere on-loan from Everton when he was quickest to Lucas Akins’ deflected shot after it struck the post.
Once again, it seemed North End were under pressure in the second period, but Mayor finished coolly to seal the points and keep his side four points of Charlton at the top.
Tranmere spent long periods in control of the game and often threatened through the dangerous wide man Akins. As well as dominating his duel with Parry, Akins could have given the away side the league in the first ten minutes, but dragged his shot wide.
The winger’s direct, powerful runs took their toll on Preston and Parry entered the book after dragging him down early on.
Both sides traded blows throughout the half making little impact.
Undoubtedly, the best chance fell to Jamie Proctor. The youngster was put through one-on-one with goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams after a sublime ball from Paul Coutts, rounded the goalkeeper and fired over the empty net.
It seemed the first half would remain goalless until Preston were handed a penalty.
Neil Melllor controlled Parry’s chipped ball and was tripped by Ian Goodison in the area. Alexander sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to give the home side the lead ten minutes before the break.
They only just escaped with an advantage after Jose Baxter forced an excellent save from home debutant Andreas Arestidou, following strong play by Enoch Showumni.
Rovers continued to boss proceedings and they were deservedly level on the hour mark. Akins cut inside and his shot was deflected onto the post before Baxter tapped home.
The equaliser prompted Phil Brown to act and Danny Mayor was introduced five minutes later. His ten minute cameo proved decisive.
Preston were only threatening the Tranmere defence on the break, but that was enough to make the difference. Coutts surged into midfield before freeing the unmarked Mayor. The youngster showed composure to steady his nerves and slide the ball home.
It was to be one of his final contributions as he was sacrificed after Parry was dismissed. Akins managed to get one-on-one with the left-back and upended him again to receive a second yellow card and set up a nervy conclusion.
Tranmere bombarded the Preston goal, but the ten men found more space and had the best of the chances.
Substitute David Gray’s teasing cross almost caused Ash Taylor to head into his own net, while Mellor twice fired at Fon Williams after picking up Arestidou’s goal kicks.
Clarke Carlisle marshalled the defence well and North End held on for the points to keep the heat on at the top.
A clash with promotion rivals Sheffield United is the next fixture at Deepdale following a trip to rock bottom Leyton Orient.
Image credit to Grace Capper.
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