By Ben Reardon
Preston North End returned to league action with a comfortable 1-0 victory over Walsall at Deepdale on Tuesday evening.
In a game which North End dominated, the solitary goal of the fixture came courtesy of Daniel Johnson, who drilled the ball home from close-range mid-way through the first-half.
The win over the Midlands outfit see’s PNE remain in fourth in the League One table, having acquired 60 points.
Preston carved out the first opening of the contest, though Joe Garner headed into the arms of Saddlers keeper’ Richard O’Donnell, after two minutes.
Up the other end, Walsall’s Anthony Forde dragged his long-range effort wide of the post.
North End were denied twice in the space of two minutes, with O’Donnell first keeping out Gallagher’s volley, before Garner’s header shortly later.
Joe Garner was then played in through on goal by Gallagher, however hit a tame effort into O’Donnell’s grasp.
The hosts would soon find the goal they had craved, with Daniel Johnson profiting from Humphrey’s clever cut-back, to drill home underneath O’Donnell after 19 minutes.
Michael Cain then skewed his shot narrowly wide from the edge of the box, with the visitors struggling to create anything clear-cut.
Preston would find another two chances prior to the interval, with Garner glancing wide, before O’Donnell kept out Humphrey’s stinging effort, as PNE hung on into half-time.
As the second half resumed, Paul Gallagher tried his luck from 20-yards, however his right-footed shot crashed off the bar, three minutes into the half.
Tom Clarke’s header then kissed the post from Gallagher’s corner, but was injured in the resulting challenge, and had to be substituted.
Just after the hour, Bailey Wright headed just over from a corner, as North End looked to kill the game off.
Walsall then looked to come back into the game late on, with Forde and Cain both bringing saves out of Johnstone with long-range efforts in the final 20 minutes.
The impressive Callum Robinson then saw driven his shot well held by O’Donnell with 75 minutes on the clock.
Dean Smith’s Walsall side were being reduced to half-chances, which were summed up by Cain’s rash half-volley which sailed over the bar.
North End had a penalty appeal waved away in the dying embers of the game, with Joe Garner hacked down,
Despite a late flurry of pressure from Walsall on the North End goal, Simon Grayson’s men hung onto claim the three points.