Preston North End 2 QPR 1
By Ben Kosky QPR have fallen short on several counts this season – but no-one could accuse them of not trying their best right up to the last kick. Rangers made Preston expend every ounce of sweat possible to pinch a play-off place and it needed a last-ga
By Ben Kosky
QPR have fallen short on several counts this season - but no-one could accuse them of not trying their best right up to the last kick.
Rangers made Preston expend every ounce of sweat possible to pinch a play-off place and it needed a last-gasp clearance to deny Matthew Connolly a deserved equaliser as the home crowd howled for the final whistle.
Caretaker boss Gareth Ainsworth tried everything to wreck the dreams of the club where he remains a legend, throwing on an extra forward in Angelo Balanta and sending goalkeeper Radek Cerny up for corners.
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"It was probably one of our best displays," observed Ainsworth. "We played some real good stuff and, but for our final ball, I think we could have scored a few more.
"Fair play to Preston, it's their day, but I'm proud of my lads. I thought they gave it a real go and if we can take that into next season, we'll definitely win a lot more points than we have this year."
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Rangers' defence gave the ball away too often and the unmarked Billy Jones should have done better with a header, while Sean St Ledger missed a good chance when he swung and failed to connect cleanly.
The visitors looked most dangerous when the ball found its way to the feet of Rowan Vine, but the striker squandered his side's best opening, stabbing weakly at Andy Lonergan after an incisive run and pass from Wayne Routledge.
North End came close on the half-hour when Simon Whaley's drive spun off Connolly and dropped just over the bar, while Neil Mellor's cross-shot came to land in a similar position.
But the home fans' anxiety was lifted eight minutes before half-time as Jon Parkin pounced on Kaspars Gorkss' underhit back-pass, rounded Cerny and slotted in from a tight angle.
Whaley, St Ledger and Mellor all wasted opportunities to increase the lead either side of half-time - yet it was a former North End striker who was next to find the net.
Patrick Agyemang silenced the Preston fans in the 57th minute, latching onto Vine's clever through ball and hitting a shot that deflected off Youl Mawene and over Lonergan.
Cerny then showed his best and worst sides in quick succession, with a dreadful sliced clearance almost gifting Chris Sedgwick a goal, but then foiling St Ledger from close range.
Preston pummelled the Rangers defence, with Paul McKenna crashing a volley just wide and firing a free-kick that cannoned behind off the wall as news of Sheffield Wednesday's goal against Cardiff began to spread.
And Deepdale exploded with 16 minutes remaining as Parkin hurled in a huge throw, Cerny was unable to hold the ball under pressure and St Ledger nodded it into the roof of the net.
Parkin might have made the points safe, but hooked the ball straight at Cerny after Chris Brown had robbed Connolly - and Brown was guilty of the same offence when Parkin returned the favour.
But Rangers threw everything into trying to salvage a point that meant nothing to them, winning two late corners, and only Darren Carter's heroics kept Connolly's header from crossing the line deep into injury time.
Preston North End: Lonergan; Jones^, Mawene, St Ledger^, Nolan; Whaley (Nicholson 79), McKenna, Carter, Sedgwick; Mellor (Brown 61), Parkin (Elliott 88). Subs not used: Cole, Hall, Alberti.
QPR: Cerny; Ramage, Connolly^, Gorkss^, Delaney; Routledge, Mahon (Balanta 83), Leigertwood^, Ephraim; Agyemang (German 75), VINE*.
Subs not used: Chilvers, Neal.