Soccer

Preston improve play-off prospects as Cardiff’s struggles at home continue

North End were 2-0 winners in the Welsh capital.

Preston North End’s Emil Riis Jakobsen during the Sky Bet Championship match at Deepdale Stadium, Preston. Picture date: Saturday September 17, 2022.
Preston North End v Sheffield United – Sky Bet Championship – Deepdale Stadium Preston North End’s Emil Riis Jakobsen during the Sky Bet Championship match at Deepdale Stadium, Preston. Picture date: Saturday September 17, 2022. (Isaac Parkin/PA)

Preston moved to within two points of the Sky Bet Championship’s top six courtesy of a 2-0 win at Cardiff.

Emil Riis scored his first goal since October 2022 in the 30th minute before Ben Whiteman struck his third of the campaign to double the away side’s lead 10 minutes later.

Cardiff struggled to create clear-cut openings and have now lost three home games in succession, while Preston stretched their unbeaten run to three outings.

Erol Bulut handed full debuts to former Celtic midfielder David Turnbull and Liverpool loanee Nat Phillips while Ryan Lowe stuck with the same 11 that started Preston’s 3-2 success against Ipswich last time out.

The Bluebirds started on the front foot and saw Kion Etete and Karlan Grant both drill efforts straight at goalkeeper Freddie Woodman.

The Lilywhites struggled to get into the contest as Cardiff played with more composure and accuracy, with Grant again testing Woodman.

But Preston stunned the home crowd by taking the lead with what was their first effort on target on the half hour mark.

Riis cut in from the left flank, evading challenges from Dimitrios Goutas and Manolis Siopis, before firing past Jak Alnwick.

It was the Danish forward’s first goal since returning from a year on the sidelines due to an ACL injury, and one that allowed Preston to gain a foothold in the game for the first time.

The outlook of the match completely shifted, so much so that Bulut was yellow carded by referee Dean Whitestone as the frustration among those in blue grew.

It got even better for Preston five minutes before the break as Brad Potts, Will Keane and Mads Frokjaer-Jensen combined on the right and the latter teed up Whiteman, who slotted home to round off a stunning team move.

Home fans jeered as the half-time whistle blew and Bulut replaced Ryan Wintle and Josh Bowler with Aaron Ramsey and Josh Wilson-Esbrand for the second half.

It was Ramsey’s first appearance since suffering a knee injury against Swansea in mid-September, while it was Wilson-Esbrand’s maiden home outing for Cardiff since joining on loan from Manchester City.

Phillips and Siopis both had efforts shortly after the restart as the Bluebirds looked to reduce Preston’s deficit, with Grant then lashing over following a one-two with Ramsey.

Famara Diedhiou replaced Etete to make his home bow, although Alnwick did brilliantly to keep Cardiff in the game by palming away Riis’ strike.

Rubin Colwill and Yakou Meite were both summoned from the bench but Preston managed the final stages with minimal fuss to end their five-game winless away streak, leaving Cardiff seven points adrift of the play-off places in the process.