Leicester City cruised to a 3-0 win over Preston in the Championship on Monday to clinch the title with a game to spare.

Jamie Vardy was the star for the Foxes as he scored in both halves before Kasey McAteer made sure of the points with an unmarked header.

Abdul Fatawu had the chance to cap an already memorable night for the travelling fans but hit the post with his curler.

Preston slumped to a fourth consecutive defeat, while Leicester go into their final game against Blackburn Rovers with the knowledge that they will lift the trophy after the final whistle. 

Data Debrief

Jamie Vardy has scored 18 goals this season (two in this game), more than any other Leicester player in the competition. He has also netted in his last three games, scoring four goals in total.

It was a dominant performance from the Foxes, who had 19 shots with 11 of those on target. At the other end, Preston only managed to test Jakub Stolarczyk once from their five attempts. 

Marti Cifuentes said he would sleep soundly after QPR got the vital win they needed against Preston but warned his players not to ease up.

Lyndon Dykes’ first-half goal secured a 1-0 victory that takes Rangers to 50 points, six above the relegation zone with matches against Leeds and Coventry to finish the season.

Their superior goal difference means their Championship survival will be all but secured if second-bottom Sheffield Wednesday lose at Blackburn on Sunday.

Asked if he believes Saturday’s win will be enough to keep Rangers up, Cifuentes said: “I hope so. Right now it looks like a big step forward.

“But whatever happens in the next games, I think the kind of mindset – the winning culture we need in this club – means that we are going to try to keep winning until the end of the season.

“My mindset is that of course today we took a big step forward in the right direction but until the job is done it’s not done, so we need to make sure that we go into the last two games all-in.

“I’m going to sleep pretty well, that’s for sure. But until the job is done it’s not done.

“I’m very happy for the guys. It was a difficult game with a lot of pressure and we responded.

“We had to win this game. The focus was excellent and I’m very proud of the guys.”

Dykes’ goal was his first in 16 matches for QPR and only his fifth in the league this season.

The striker took advantage to tap into an empty net at the far post after Preston keeper Freddie Woodman spilled Chris Willock’s cross.

“I’m very happy for Lyndon. Today he had one of his best games of the season, if not the best,” Cifuentes said.

“He showed character and personality. Sometimes football is about passion and I think all the guys showed a lot of passion.

“We’ve been talking about the need for ugly goals and he was in the right place at the right time.”

Preston boss Ryan Lowe suggested his players would be hauled in for extra training after their poor performance.

“It wasn’t good enough. Nowhere near the levels,” Lowe said.

“I know it’s a mistake for the goal, but we’ve got to do better all-round, with and without the ball. I didn’t recognise that team as a Preston North End team.

“Back to the drawing board, two games to go, and I don’t want the season to just peter out.

“We felt that today was a game that we could compete in and win. We competed to an extent, but the quality on show from both teams wasn’t great. I expect my team to be better.

“We didn’t sustain attacks, didn’t look after the ball and it wasn’t a performance I felt could win a game of football and I said that to the players.

“They expected to take a few extra days this week but we’ll be back in, back at the training ground working hard, because we’ve got two important games left.

“We’ve got to be solid and resolute – back to being us. Back to being what’s got us this far. We were nowhere near today.”

QPR beat Preston 1-0 at Loftus Road to all but secure Championship safety as Lyndon Dykes ended his goal drought with a first-half winner.

Scotland striker Dykes pounced at the far post after keeper Freddie Woodman spilled Chris Willock’s cross to net his first QPR goal in 16 matches and only his fifth in the league this season.

Victory took Rangers to 50 points, six clear of the relegation zone with two matches of the campaign remaining, but their superior goal difference means the win almost certainly keeps them up.

Results elsewhere earlier on Saturday meant Marti Cifuentes’ side kicked off knowing that a win would effectively end fears of dropping into League One.

They started in determined fashion, with Lucas Andersen firing wide and both Dykes and Ilias Chair shooting well over.

A period of Preston pressure followed and Liam Millar was denied at point-blank range by Rangers keeper Asmir Begovic after exchanging passes with Ben Woodburn.

QPR were suddenly struggling, but were gifted a goal after 20 minutes.

Willock cut in from the left and delivered a cross which seemed like a routine take for Woodman, who inexplicably fumbled the ball to the grateful Dykes.

Woodman somewhat atoned by preventing a Rangers second, diving to his left to push away Willock’s fierce strike.

However, the North End keeper was guilty of another error shortly afterwards when he fumbled Andersen’s corner, but Jake Clarke-Salter’s attempt to force in the loose ball was blocked and Preston managed to scramble it clear.

As Rangers continued to threaten, Dykes won the ball in midfield and was sent through by Chair, but opted to shoot early rather than continue towards goal and his effort went harmlessly wide of the target.

Preston had another let-off in the opening minutes of the second half when Dykes and Kenneth Paal were just unable to get a decisive touch to Willock’s low cross from the right.

The visitors rode their luck again when R’s defender Steve Cook scuffed a shot wide after Preston had failed to deal with Andersen’s corner, and when Woodman flapped at another Andersen corner and his defenders were able to clear.

It was certainly a day to forget for the hapless Woodman, although he did manage to parry headers from Chair and Sam Field before QPR appealed in vain for a penalty when Chair’s cross hit Jordan Storey’s hand.

Preston threatened in the closing stages but the hosts defended well and Cifuentes can now almost allow himself to celebrate a job well done.

Rangers were second bottom of the table, six points from safety and had lost six matches in a row when the Spaniard took over as boss at the end of October following the sacking of Gareth Ainsworth.

Russell Martin said the Sky Bet Championship automatic promotion race “dynamic” has changed after Southampton’s 3-0 domination of Preston.

Saints had looked destined for a play-off place after three defeats in four games during February, but three home wins in seven days has them just four points off the top two.

A Che Adams brace and Stuart Armstrong’s fourth goal of the season sealed the points on Tuesday and Saints boss Martin said: “I think it was a brilliant performance with some really beautiful stuff.

“It has been a big week for us. It has changed the dynamic. We were written off some point ago but the players have stuck at it and been resilient.

“We have the opportunity to take the points off teams around us but if we have to take care of the next one against Cardiff and if we don’t then the others become a bit pointless.”

Adams opened the scoring in the 19th minute when he tapped in Adam Armstrong’s centre for his 100th career goal.

He doubled his tally by finishing a fine team move with a cool finish before Stuart Armstrong capitalised on a defensive howler to smash in.

The only taint on the evening was an Achilles injury to goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu in the warm-up that looks to have ended his season.

Martin, who promoted Alex McCarthy, said: “He has felt something in his Achilles and will have a scan tomorrow. We don’t expect to see him any time soon and we’ll give him all the support he needs.

“Al has trained so well. He has travelled everywhere and trained like a beast. We’ve seen what Joe (Lumley) can do and has done really well and we wanted to see Al. It was a feeling I had in my gut at the time.”

But Martin added on the performance of Adams, who he subbed off before he could score a hat-trick: “He has just threatened to beat me up out there! We had a hug and a laugh and he understands why I had to take him off.

“He looks like he is going to score all the time at the moment.”

Preston had the third lowest expected goals of the Championship season with 0.07 and manager Ryan Lowe said: “The be all and end all was the first half has cost us. The game plan that we set out to do in the first half was nowhere near.

“The game was probably over at half-time at 3-0. You can’t give a team like Southampton chances like that because they’re a fantastic team.

“The game plan was to try and nullify their strengths and capitalise on their weaknesses and we didn’t really do either.

“They could end up going up automatically, if not they’re going to be a real force in the play-offs.”

Che Adams notched a brace to give Southampton a 3-0 victory over Preston, a third home win in seven days and a clear view of the Sky Bet Championship automatic promotion places.

Striker Adams claimed a classy first-half double – which took him past 100 league goals – before Scotland team-mate Stuart Armstrong crashed in a third.

After three defeats in four matches in February, Saints thought they would be consigned to the play-offs but three wins in a row, along with Ipswich, Leeds and Leicester’s stumbles, have them four points outside the top two with a game in hand on all but Leicester.

Saints were forced into a pre-match alteration as Gavin Bazunu hobbled out of the warm-ups, with Alex McCarthy brought in for his first league start since the final day of last season – having not initially been named on the bench.

The former England international fumbled his only real work of the night – an early low shot from Mads Frokjaer – but from that point, the hosts suffocated North End with electric passing and goals.

After a couple of close shaves, Adams reached his ton of goals with a 19th minute tap-in. The Scotland international made a smart run in the middle to put himself on the end of Adam Armstrong’s low centre.

Ten minutes later and Saints had doubled their lead after a gorgeous free-flowing move which ended with Adams coolly slotting into the bottom corner following a pass from David Brooks.

Freddie Woodman’s high position twice gave his colleagues a heart-in-mouth moment as Adam Armstrong and Adams both took aim with lobs from 35 yards – both ending up on the roof of the goal.

Saints grabbed their third in the 33rd minute, when Duane Holmes’ abject attempt at a clearance fell to Stuart Armstrong to stroke into a largely unguarded net.

Holmes, already booked, was lucky to stay on the pitch as he tripped Ryan Manning on the edge of the box soon after – with Stuart Armstrong’s free-kick straight at Woodman. But the United States international was hooked by manager Ryan Lowe before the end of the half.

Stuart Armstrong struck the base of a post but Saints would not have been too worried against a Preston side who have not scored a second-half goal on the road in 2024.

Adams had a number of chances to claim the match ball in the second half, none more so than in the 67th minute when he duped a defender with his run, pulled a lofted through-ball down and was only foiled by the onrushing Woodman’s face.

Woodman also saved a rasping effort from Brooks as Saints eased off with the three points secured.

Boss David Wagner warned Norwich cannot let up in their bid for a Championship play-off place despite moving six points clear with a late 1-0 win at Preston.

Gabriel Sara struck in the 86th minute to bag a crucial victory for the Canaries against their promotion rivals on a day where fellow contenders Coventry and Middlesbrough also dropped points.

Seventh-placed Hull have a game in hand on Norwich but Wagner’s side are in pole position to secure that final spot after an excellent performance at Deepdale.

A goalkeeper masterclass from Freddie Woodman prevented Norwich from striking earlier – he made four excellent first-half saves – but Sara’s fifth goal in seven matches broke the deadlock.

“We’re a step closer [securing a play-off place] but it isn’t done,” Wagner said.

“We have some further work to do but seven points from our last three games – and three top performances – is fantastic.

“We’re all a bit exhausted but we have a couple of days off now and we can’t wait to get back to Carrow Road against Bristol City.”

In a game packed with chances, Woodman kept Preston in it. He first saved from Borja Sainz before denying Ashley Barnes from close range.

Sara went agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock but again Woodman did well to collect a fizzing 25-yard volley while he then stopped Sara in first-half stoppage time.

Preston had plenty of chances of their own, with Norwich stopper Angus Gunn thwarting Jordan Storey from close range.

“We deserved the win, performance-wise we looked very mature, very calm and very composed,” Wagner added.

“Unfortunately we had to wait quite a long time [to win it] but I have the feeling we deserved the goal.

“It was important to keep cool heads and to keep the crowd on a low. How the players executed the plan was just great.

“Unfortunately we didn’t use our opportunities [in the game], even though there were not a lot of them.

“But I thought we were always in control, even though some of our final passes and final touches could have been a bit better.

“We defended super, super well. We gave them more or less nothing apart from set-pieces.

“We knew they would be a threat on set-pieces but the players were competitive and it was a top performance.

“I’m over the moon about the result and the clean sheet as well. In possession we were composed even though we didn’t execute clearcut chances but we always looked in control.”

Preston dropped to 10th and are now eight points off sixth place, although they have four games left.

“It’s mixed emotions, really,” said manager Ryan Lowe.

“Disappointed with the result, pleased and proud of the boys for everything they have given all season.

“We have fallen a little bit short. It hasn’t been for the lack of trying, effort, desire or commitment – everything I like was definitely there.

“It is that final bit, in both boxes, isn’t it? But, as I say, I am always proud of the boys.

“I thought we were the better team really, if I am being honest – especially first half, we had some good moments.

“In the second half they had the ball a bit more; we were ready to pounce and go.”

Freddie Woodman produced a goalkeeping masterclass but Gabriel Sara’s late winner saw Norwich beat Preston 1-0 at Deepdale to move closer towards securing a coveted play-off place.

The former Newcastle shot-stopper pulled off a string of fine saves but Brazilian midfielder Sara’s 86th-minute strike dented the Lilywhites’ play-off hopes and left the Canaries six points clear of seventh-placed Hull.

Woodman made four excellent saves in the first half alone while the Lilywhites also hit the crossbar but it was Sara’s later intervention which proved crucial.

It was the playmaker’s fifth goal in seven games, with the Canaries having left themselves well-placed to be in the play-off mix with just three games left.

Preston dropped to 10th and are now eight points off sixth place, although they have four games left.

Defender Liam Lindsay went close for the home side in the 13th minute but his header flew narrowly over.

Midfielder Mads Frokjaer forced a fine save from Canaries keeper Angus Gunn not long after as the home side forced the early pace in their quest to further their play-off hopes.

At the other end, Sara picked out Borja Sainz with a fine pass but the Spaniard rifled his powerful volley wide of the target.

Centre-back Jordan Storey was then thwarted from close range by a superb save from Gunn.

But another missed chance nearly cost the home side but for Woodman’s brilliant intervention.

The on-song keeper produced an excellent block to deny Sainz the opener as the visitors found their way back into the contest.

Two minutes later Woodman saved well from Ashley Barnes as the home side found themselves on the back foot.

Sara went agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock but again Woodman did well to collect a fizzing 25-yard volley.

Woodman saved again from Sara in first-half stoppage time as the home side were able to get some much-needed respite going into the break.

But that was just before Jack Whatmough thought he had put them ahead on the stroke of half-time, his thundering header having beaten Gunn and crashed into the woodwork.

Sara smashed over the bar after just two minutes of the second half while Sainz’s deflected effort fell fortuitously into the path of Josh Sargent but he lashed across the face of goal.

Kenny McLean fired a powerful shot over the bar as the visitors pushed for a winner and the pressure told with just four minutes left when Sara pounced to win it for the visitors.

Woodman got a hand to the shot but not enough to prevent it going into the far corner.

Midfielder Alan Browne had a shot cleared after a goalmouth scramble as Preston desperately tried to get back on level terms but Sara’s winner was a real sucker-punch to their play-off ambitions.

The first EFL promotion places could be confirmed this Saturday, with Portsmouth, Stockport and Wrexham all looking for the results to rubber-stamp their elevation.

Here, the PA news agency looks at what is required in each division.


Rotherham are down and nothing else will be decided this weekend at either end of the table, though Southampton will secure a play-off place unless they lose and Coventry and Preston both win.

League One

Portsmouth will be confirmed as a Championship team for next season if they beat third-placed Bolton.

Should Pompey drop points, they can still be promoted on Saturday if they at least match the results of both second-placed Derby and fourth-placed Peterborough, who face Leyton Orient and Oxford respectively.

At the bottom, Carlisle are already relegated and the other three places will remain in contest at least until midweek, though Fleetwood could end Saturday nine points adrift of safety with only nine to play for.

League Two

Stockport need only a point against Morecambe to secure their promotion.

Wrexham could join them with victory over bottom club Forest Green, if MK Dons do not beat Mansfield in the battle of fourth against third – that would also send Stockport up even if they lose. The top three are already secure in the play-offs as a minimum and could be joined by MK Dons.

Relegation issues will not be confirmed, but Forest Green could be left six points adrift with two games remaining.

Ryan Lowe said substitute Milutin Osmajic showed “pure class” as his eight-minute hat-trick completed Preston’s comeback in a 4-1 win over Huddersfield that keeps their Championship play-off hopes alive.

Relegation-battling Huddersfield were the better side in the first half and led through Josh Koroma’s strike four minutes before the break, but Will Keane levelled from the penalty spot early in the second half before Osmajic’s stunning cameo.

The Montenegrin put Preston in front in the 84th minute before scoring again in the 87th minute and the first minute of stoppage time.

“It’s just pure class and he’s got that in him,” Lowe said of the summer signing from Cadiz. “It’s been tough for him, he’s been in and out of the team at certain times…That’s his real hunger and desire to perform for the football club and for his team-mates and he takes all the credit for that.”

There had been a very different mood at half-time, with boos greeting the referee’s whistle as Preston were in danger of letting a top-six finish get out of reach.

“The first half wasn’t us, we weren’t at the races,” Lowe said. “We got them in at half-time and told them they need to be better. I had faith the lads could come out and perform. We changed one or two things, gave them a bit of information and told them they needed to raise it 20 per cent.

“The penalty gave us a bit of a life line to get back in and then there was only one team going to win it.”

The win leaves Preston five points off sixth-placed Norwich, who visit Deepdale on Saturday.

“It’s massively important,” Lowe said of the game. “I’m not going to play it down. Who knows? It might be the biggest one so far. It’s out of our hands what other teams do points-wise. I just want us to stay in the mix. If we can keep climbing up, with five games to go, who knows?”

Huddersfield boss Andre Breitenreiter was left to rue the chances that got away in a strong first half, and said the way his side defended after the break was “not acceptable”.

“When you defend like we did in the second half you cannot get some points,” the German said. “It was terrible, it was poor, too many ball losses.

“We played a really good first half but we missed the final pass to score more goals, we had really good opportunities to score two or three goals and we didn’t do that…

“I cannot tell you my opinion (on the penalty decision) because I didn’t see the clip. But the goal changed everything. Then we have to speak about our own performance and the performance was not good enough.

“After 1-1 there were too many ball losses, we didn’t play as a team, we had bad body language. It was a different game and it was not acceptable for me.”

Milutin Osmajic came off the bench to score a hat-trick in the space of eight minutes as play-off chasing Preston came from behind to beat Huddersfield 4-1 in the Championship.

Josh Koroma fired the relegation-battling Terriers in front late in the first half but the tide turned after the break after as Will Keane levelled from the penalty spot in the 53rd minute.

Osmajic then entered the fray with a stunning cameo, putting Preston in front in the 84th minute before scoring two more, the last of them in the first minute of time added on.

The Montenegrin had only scored once since November coming into the night but his match-winning contribution helped keep alive Preston’s hopes of making the play-offs, with victory leaving them five points off sixth place with five games to play.

But for Huddersfield, defeat leaves them outside the bottom three on goal difference alone.

The Terriers had been the better side for much of the first half as Sorba Thomas and Delano Burgzorg provided a constant threat, with Preston struggling to get out of their own half.

Huddersfield’s industry was rewarded just before the break. Burgzorg ran on to a through ball from Ben Wiles, outmuscling Ali McCann to win possession and then keeping the ball in on the byline to pull it back.

Wiles’ shot was blocked but the ball fell for Koroma who took a touch before lashing a shot across goal.

There were boos from the home fans at the half-time whistle but it took only six minutes of the second half for the mood to change. Alex Matos took a loose touch in the Huddersfield box and, in his bid to make amends, the Chelsea loanee bundled into Keane.

Matos saw yellow, and Keane stepped up to send Lee Nicholls the wrong way.

Huddersfield boss Andre Breitenreiter replaced Matos with Rhys Healey – who got the stoppage-time winner against Millwall at the weekend – but Preston still looked the more likely scorers, with Duane Holmes wriggling through the box before testing Nicholls with a powerful shot.

Osmajic’s first contribution after coming on was to appeal for a penalty. He was initially slow to react to a through ball but then barged Brodie Spencer off it before dropping to the deck, with referee Lewis Smith unimpressed.

But five minutes later he was celebrating his first goal, meeting Thomas’ cross from the right at the near post.

The Preston fans had not returned to their seats before he got another, racing on to Alan Browne’s pass to slot the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.

And, as the game moved into six minutes of time added on, he added a final flourish, beating Spencer to get a toe on to Mads Frokjaer-Jensen’s low ball from the right.

Ryan Lowe believes the point his Preston side gained in a 0-0 draw against Watford at Vicarage Road could still be a valuable one in securing a Sky Bet Championship play-off spot.

Lowe said: “We got a valuable point which hopefully will help us but I thought we did enough to win the game.

“At this stage of the season you need three points. We came here to win and had some great chances but we just didn’t have that clinical edge at the top edge of the pitch today.

“We had to make it a bit dogged because Watford have got some Premier League quality players. We had a goal threat, but just couldn’t put it in the back of the net.

“It’s been difficult all season, it’s not just now. All we have tried to do is stay in the top half of the division as long as we can.”

Lowe had a word of sympathy for central defender Richard Hughes, who missed Preston’s most glaring opportunity just before half-time when he skewed his shot so badly it almost went out for a throw-in.

Lowe added: “I’ve seen him score them in training, but in fairness he’s the left-sided centre-half and we have players who are more capable of putting the ball in the back of the net than he is. He was in the right area and on another day he would put it in.

“We had a discussion about it as we were coming off the pitch. He said: ‘I’ll be thinking about that chance.’ I don’t want that, though, because you can’t turn the clock back, can you?”

While Lowe and Preston continue to eye the play-offs with home fixtures to come this week against Huddersfield and Norwich – the club currently occupying the final play-off position – he is aware that other, larger Championship clubs are still involved in the relegation battle.

He explained: “It says a lot about where the club is that we are still looking up. For us, Preston North End, to still be in the mix with six games to try and get in the play-offs is a massive achievement.

“We’ve got two massive games coming up this week. And we’ve got an opportunity to get six points because we’re playing at home.”

For Watford, whose four-match unbeaten run under interim manager Tom Cleverley now appears to have secured their Championship status, it is all about next season.

He has impressed since taking over from Valerien Ismael but is mindful that Watford’s winless run at Vicarage Road now stretches to 11 league games.

Cleverley said: “No, I don’t take the result in the end. It’s not where I want us to be. That’s the honest answer.

“I would much rather three wins and one defeat than what we’ve got in these four games.

“We have to try and find the balance of going for the winner and not risking the loss.

“Maybe we were a bit conservative today. It’s about finding that balance in the team.

“I was a bit concerned thought we lacked that little bit of killer edge around the box. But the game just never really got any rhythm and we just could not sustain the pressure on them.

“We just didn’t have the answers to break them down so we will analyse that. It’s not a question of quality if you look at the players we had out there.

“It’s a question of mentality to keep banging on that door and having that ruthless edge. We have to make it happen because we still didn’t get that first home win of the year.

“The one thing I have felt is that the belief (is) coming back. We’re fearless now.”

Cleverley admitted that, although he feels comfortable in the dugout, becoming a manager was not in his thoughts when he first arrived at Watford as a teenager on loan from Manchester United.

He added: “Yes, I feel comfortable. I’ve got a lot of belief in myself.

“It’s not something that was on the horizon until I came back to the club as a 27-year-old, when I thought I had a role to play in developing and helping players.”

Preston boss Ryan Lowe was delighted to avoid a potential banana skin after a comfortable 3-0 home win over a Rotherham side whose Championship status is hanging by a thread.

North End remain five points behind sixth-placed Norwich in the table, but they have lost just one of their last 10 to keep their play-off hopes alive.

Rock-bottom Rotherham, meanwhile, are now 19 points from safety with only seven matches left, having still not won a match in 2024 and not won at all on their travels this season.

Goals from Duane Holmes and two from Emil Riis just before half-time sealed all three points for Preston, with Lowe pleased at his team’s ability to get the job done.

Lowe, whose side go to struggling Birmingham on Monday, said: “A clean sheet and three points, nobody can ask for anything more than that I don’t think.

“Overall I thought the performance was fantastic.

“At this time it’s just about winning games of football, and we did that comfortably.

“I said to the players before the game that this one had to be about attitude and application, against a team who haven’t really got anything to play for.

“It could have been a potential banana skin, but to be fair to the group, it definitely didn’t turn out like that.

“We were on the front foot pretty much throughout the game, we produced some good passages of play and we scored some good goals.

“I’m pleased with the result and the performance, and so we move on to Easter Monday now and see what that brings.

“It’s all about staying positive, given the position we’re in.”

After a rather pedestrian start at Deepdale, the hosts created the first opportunity when Andrew Hughes pounced on a loose ball in the Millers box, only for his effort to be blocked by keeper Viktor Johansson.

Holmes then celebrated his return to the starting line-up by opening the scoring in the 22nd minute, darting in to coolly convert a cross from Robbie Brady.

With half-time approaching, Preston deservedly doubled their advantage when Riis took a touch from Mads Frokjaer’s cross before slotting past Johansson.

Five minutes later he struck again from close range to make it 3-0.

With the game wrapped up by half-time, the second half was a much quieter affair, with Preston looking the more likely team to score.

Rotherham could now be mathematically relegated on Easter Monday, when they host Millwall, but manager Leam Richardson wants the team to keep battling.

He said: “We know what moment we’re in here, and this club is massively in transition, I think we can all see that.

“But that’s not really what the fans want to hear – I feel for all of our fans right now.

“We’ve all got to represent ourselves and this club much better than we have been doing.

“If you’re not bang at it in this division, if you’re not at 100 per cent all the time, you know you’re going to be in for a tough ride.

“That’s what’s happened here again.

“It’s about me trying to get some confidence into the players and trying my best to give the team some kind of identity. Maybe then we can get better results.

“We certainly don’t want to be going out of this division with a whimper.

“I want everyone to stick together and show a bit more belief and confidence in these final few remaining games of the season.”

Preston boss Ryan Lowe praised his side for dealing with their injury setbacks in their 1-0 win at his former club Plymouth.

Liam Millar, who came on for the injured Milutin Osmajic after only seven minutes, volleyed home the decisive goal in the 43rd minute, while Layton Stewart, on in place of Brad Potts, went close to a second when he smashed a shot against a post.

Lowe said: “I thought the lads were fantastic from start to finish.

“Losing Emil (Riis Jakobsen) this morning to a sickness bug and then to lose two important players in the first 20 minutes, you are thinking, ‘OK’.

“But I thought the two lads who came on equipped themselves fantastically well and were excellent from back to front. I thought they were brilliant.

“We brought Liam on because we thought he would get in behind them.

“You have to adapt these things and that’s what we did. I am full of faith and belief in the boys that are on the pitch.

“(It’s a) perfect way to go into the international break and a week off.

“Three straight away wins and three clean sheets, that’s not a bad way to go into the international break.

“We want an exciting end to the campaign. I have to keep a level head on it as the manager, but the fans can get excited.

“The fans were brilliant today, excellent, all of them. It doesn’t go unnoticed.

“We should have scored more goals and Layton was so unlucky because he did everything right with his shot that came back off the post.”

“Argyle are fighting for points and I wish them well from now on in because the club has a special place in my heart.

“The fans need to be patient and believe in the process and get behind the coach. Everyone needs to stick together.”

The defeat was Plymouth’s fourth home loss in a row and left them just two points above the bottom three.

Head coach Ian Foster said: “It is disappointing because we desperately want to win games of football and we desperately want to win games here at Home Park.

“I felt we were quite unfortunate to be behind at half-time.

“The players gave everything. We fought until the very end.

“We fancied ourselves in the second period, fine margins, but it’s the way things are going for us.

“It’s a similar situation to last week when we got into good positions and didn’t take our chances. We have got to turn chances into goals.

“It does hurt when we don’t win. We have an appreciation of how important points are at the moment.

“The break now might do us a little bit of good, with recharging the batteries.

“I am quite conscious some of the players need a break and the most important thing is they get a breather now.

“But we are desperate to get back to winning ways when we come back.”

Ryan Lowe’s Preston reignited their play-off hopes with a 1-0 win at his former club Plymouth.

Substitute Liam Millar scored the decisive goal in the 43rd minute after a sweeping move down the left.

The victory lifted North End up to ninth, five points off sixth-placed Norwich with a game in hand, and condemned Ian Foster’s struggling Argyle to a fourth successive home defeat.

The hosts started well, with Ryan Hardie firing wide after latching on to a superb through-ball down the left by Mickel Miller.

Preston boss Lowe was forced to shuffle his line-up early on as Milutin Osmajic was forced off injured after only seven minutes, Millar coming on.

The visitors also lost Brad Potts in the 19th minute, with Layton Stewart taking his place.

But the two changes did little to disrupt Preston’s intent and they forced the pace of the game for much of the first half

Millar should have scored in the 20th minute when he latched on to a pass along the edge of the box by Mads Frokjaer-Jensen and raced into the area, chesting the ball down but then firing wide with only goalkeeper Michael Cooper to beat from close range.

But he made no mistake shortly before half-time as Liam Lindsay’s deep cross was flicked on by Will Keane and Millar at the far post smashed a volley back across goal and into the corner.

Argyle’s best chances came late in the half as they forced a succession of corners, with North End keeper Freddie Woodman at full stretch to tip away Adam Randell’s inswinging set-piece before Mustapha Bundu’s header from another ball in flew high and wide.

Millar forced a good diving save from Cooper in the 52nd minute as Preston began the second half on the front foot.

Cooper made an even better stop to keep out Jordan Storey’s far-post header from a 59th-minute corner.

Argyle’s top-scorer Morgan Whittaker then swept his shot wide when well-placed in the box.

Keane’s long throw from the left was then gathered 20 yards from goal by an unmarked Stewart, who let fly with a fierce, dipping shot which beat Cooper but smashed off the foot of a post.

Adam Randell went close for Plymouth with a 20-yard strike, but the hosts could not find a leveller.

Ryan Lowe hopes his Preston side will take their shock 2-1 home defeat to Championship strugglers Stoke as a wake-up call in the Lilywhites’ fight for the play-offs.

A second-half own goal from Andrew Hughes, plus Luke McNally’s late winner were scored either side of substitute forward Milutin Osmajic’s equaliser for the hosts, ending the Lancashire club’s seven-game unbeaten run and leaving them in ninth – five points from the top six.

The former Plymouth manager was particularly disappointed with the nature of the two goals conceded, with the first coming about through a vicious left-sided cross from Lynden Gooch and the second arising after a defensive mix-up which allowed McNally to tap in from point-blank range.

Lowe said: “It was tough because we were nowhere near the levels that we’ve been at.

“We knew Stoke were going to come and fight and they obviously changed shape to nullify us and stop us from playing. We were flat. We weren’t on the level we’ve been at during the last few weeks.

“Maybe that will give us a kick up the backside. You can’t give teams like Stoke, who are fighting for their lives, opportunities to score goals.

“I just don’t want the season to fizzle out. I want us to keep pushing.

“There are some good teams in around us. I know how tough the Championship is, but I want to give the lads a chance to stay in and around the top spots.

“The points that we’ve got are excellent and hopefully this can give us a bit of a kick up the backside, so we don’t get too carried away.

“We need to get a result against Plymouth now before the international break.”

In the other dugout, another former Plymouth boss in Steven Schumacher was delighted with his team’s performance in blustery conditions.

The travelling Potters began the game third-bottom but came racing out of the blocks to put the hosts on the backfoot almost immediately.

Yet supporters had to wait until the second half for their strong showing to represent itself on the scoresheet, with McNally’s 87th-minute winner meaning Stoke rise to 19th in the table and three points clear of the drop zone.

Schumacher said: “It’s an important win. We’ve had a good week actually with a really good performance against Leeds on Tuesday where we could have got a point.

“To come here today and take all three points is a really good achievement because we were up against a really good team who are in excellent form, so yeah it was a battle.

“It wasn’t the prettiest of games, but with that pitch and the style of game it was going to be, it doesn’t matter.

“Getting the win is all that matters. This result can give everyone a bit of confidence and belief. It’s huge to be out of the bottom three.

“Everyone understands that there are so many teams down there fighting for their lives.

“We need to back that up now in the next game against Norwich and see if we can get a result there, because every point is going to be crucial.”

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