By Connor Billington
A 36th minute strike was enough for Preston to get another three points in their search for automatic promotion.
It was a day where a win was all that would be good enough for the home side after dropping two points at Fleetwood last weekend and they got exactly that, the added bonus of Bristol dropping two today will have been greatly appreciated in Preston.
It was a very open game in the first 15 minutes, Rose forcing a corner out of Johnstone just three minutes in and Gallagher did well down the right to deliver but Beckford just couldn’t get himself positioned for a good header on goal.
Despite Rochdale’s dominance, the first good chance fell to the home side, Aston Vila loanee Robinson was set free down the left by Garner but Lillis was equal to his effort.
It soon settled down with Preston starting to get a grip on the game, and sure enough, 37 minutes in, Jermaine Beckford gave his side the lead.
From nothing, the striker latched on to the ball in the area and on the spin, he fired through Lillis’s legs from eight yards out.
Rochdale almost replied immediately, Cannon easily got the better of Laird down the right, pushed in to the area but his effort hit the post after a deflection from a Preston defender and the danger was cleared.
Two minutes later Preston had a glorious chance to double the lead, Robinson delivered a wonderful cross which the Rochdale defence could only clear as far as Johnson, he fired an effort from outside the area which Lillis could only parry in to the path of Garner, not the best path! He fired across the face of goal but the ball managed to evade everyone.
A glorious chance fell to the visitors eight minutes in to the second half when Tanser delivered to the back-post where Henderson was waiting, but the striker was only able to head over from six yards out.
Up the other end, Garner found himself with a chance to make it two nil when Johnson lofted the ball over from the left, the top goal scorer attempted a diving header at goal but just couldn’t direct it goalwards.
The second half was fairly uneventful with Preston looking fairly in control as Garner had another chance at the back post after Woods floated one over, Garner got his head to it but Lillis was equal to it and parried it out for a corner.
Preston brought Chris Humphrey on in the second half and the Jamaican made a real difference, giving his side a much more dangerous looking attacking presence, the winger also being a real help defensive wise.
Johnson had a good chance for the home side with a set piece that came straight off the training ground, Gallagher lined up to float a free-kick in to the box but instead passed it square in to the area where Johnson was in tons of space, but the midfielder scuffed his shot.
Scott Laird produced a wonderful effort in the last minute when a corner was cleared to his path, the left-back fired an effort back in but Lillis was equal to it with a just as good save to keep it out.
The four minutes added were nervy for Preston and for a moment, it looked like Rochdale might nick a point, but it wasn’t to be.
At this stage of the season, three points is all that matters and that’s what Preston got.