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Leeds Utd 1 Preston North End 1

LEEDS UTD: Sullivan, Kelly, Gregan, Kilgallon, Crainey, Miller,Bakke (Stone 57), Derry (Cresswell 79), Lewis,Healy (Blake 72), Hulse.


Subs Not Used: Bennett, Douglas.




PRESTON NORTH END: Nash, Mears, Davis, Mawene, Alexander, Jarrett,O'Neil (Whaley 64), McKenna, Nugent (Agyemang 64), Dichio,Ormerod (Sedgwick 88).


Subs Not Used: Ward, Wilson.


Att: 35,239

It is only half-time - and how many times have we heard that this weekend - but we will need a better performance on Monday if we want to make Cardiff for the Play-Off final.

It took a brilliant free-kick from former Preston winger Eddie Lewis to keep the play-off dream alive, but it looked pretty frightening just prior to it.

Let's be honest with ourselves, David Nugent's individual strike three minutes after the restart was right of the top drawer. Although you could ask a few questions as to why he was allowed to travel so far with the ball on his toe-end.

But it put Billy Davies' on course for a slender victory at Elland Road before World Cup-bound Lewis, a free transfer signing from Preston last summer, equalised with 15 minutes remaining to leave Monday's decisive second leg at Deepdale on a knife-edge.

Wayne Rooney take note ... Nugent was making his first start since breaking a metatarsal bone against Ipswich on March 14 in which he scored twice in a 3-1 win. And it took him seven weeks to return to fitness and if fellow Scouser Rooney recovers from his metatarsal injury at the same speed, he should be back in time to play Sweden in the final Group B game on June 20.

Kevin Blackwell made seven changes from the side which lost 2-0 at Deepdale on the final day of the season.

Along with Lewis, David Healy and Sean Gregan also lined up against their erstwhile employers while another former Deepdale favourite, Richard Cresswell, was a shock inclusion among the home substitutes.

Cresswell had been sidelined since February with damaged knee ligaments and his return gave the tie extra spice in front of over 35,000 supporters.

The kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes after traffic congestion on the M62 delayed the arrival of some 4,900 Preston fans.

Blackwell said it was the club's most significant match since the 2001 Champions League semi-final against Valencia.

Preston arrived at Elland Road on the back of an eight-match unbeaten run, and they hardly looked under pressure for most of the game. Although two minutes before the break Leeds went agonisingly close when Liam Miller looked set to deflect in Rob Hulse's header but for goalkeeper Carlo Nash's crucial intervention.

There lay the nagging suspicion that Preston could pilfer a goal on the counter-attack and the threat became reality three minutes after the restart.

Nugent collected possession 25 yards from goal and embarked on a delightful weaving run which took him past four Leeds players and slip the ball past Neil Sullivan from 10 yards.

The defending from Leeds was woeful but that should take nothing away from Nugent's efforts.

Leeds continued to huff and puff but despite the introduction of former England winger Steve Stone, they posed precious little serious goal threat.

However, after Davis fouled Miller 22 yards from goal with 15 minutes remaining, Lewis stepped up to curl a brilliant left-foot strike past Nash and into the top corner.

The goal lifted Elland Road and prompted a mini pitch invasion from the home supporters.

Tensions reached boiling point in the closing stages following a clash between Hulse and Davis, but neither side could find a potentially priceless winner.





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The Journalist

Writer:  Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday May 7 2006

Time: 12:59PM

 

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