Report: Preston 1 Ipswich Town 2 – Fraser nets a sublime winner to keep Town top

Brett Pitman celebrates his goal during the first half against Preston

Brett Pitman celebrates his goal during the first half against Preston

A goal-of-the-season contender from Ryan Fraser sealed Ipswich Town a 2-1 victory at Preston North End this afternoon.

The Blues winger caressed a curling, floated effort into the top corner from the angle of the box in the 65th minute following patient build-up involving 15+ passes.

Town had taken the lead against the run of play through Brett Pitman’s 24th minute header but went into the break level after Daniel Johnson finished off a rapid counter-attacking move.

Mick McCarthy’s men remain top of the Championship table having claimed 10 points from their opening four league matches. They have scored two goals in all five of their league and cup outings so far this season.

This is Town’s first league win at Deepdale since 1966, last season’s League One play-off champions Preston – who had not conceded a goal in their opening three games – losing at home for the first time in the league since November 15, 2014.

Blues boss McCarthy made three changes to his starting XI following Tuesday night’s 2-0 home win over Burnley.

Dean Gerken was a late replacement for Bartosz Bialkowski in goal, the latter out for ‘personal reasons’.

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The injured Daryl Murphy (tight calf) was replaced by midweek goalscorer David McGoldrick, while teenage Arsenal loanee Ainsley Maitland-Niles – so impressive in the opening three league games – dropped to the bench and was replaced by front man Brett Pitman.

Preston manager Simon Grayson made just one enforced alteration to his team following their goalless stalemate at Rotherham on Tuesday night – injured striker Will Keane replaced by Neil Kilkenny.

Talismanic front man Jermaine Beckford – who missed the opening three league matches with a pre-season injury - was named on the bench.

The Lilywhites have played with a wing-back system in recent times, but abandoned that in an attempt to catch their opponents out – Grayson instead going 4-4-1-1.

Any fears that the Lancashire side would park the bus proved to be unfounded, the home side getting on the front foot from the off.

It required a Jonas Knudsen block on Chris Humphrey in the area in the eighth minute. Moments later, Paul Huntington headed a Paul Gallagher corner delivery just over.

The onslaught continued with Joe Garner heading Gallagher’s wicked deep free-kick delivery just the wrong side of the post, with Gallagher’s powerful effort from the edge of the box beaten away by Gerken with less than 15 minutes played.

Garner dragged a shot wide and then, after Neil Kilkenny’s fabulous raking pass took out the entire Town defence, Humphrey messed up a good volley opportunity.

Town’s opener therefore came massively against the run of play. Following Knudsen’s long throw up the line, Freddie Sears worked himself some space, crossed from the left and Pitman squeezed an expert header inside the near post on the angle of the six-yard box. It was the visitors’ first attempt on goal.

That goal temporarily took the wind out of Preston, but they deservedly went into the break on level terms thanks to a fine counter-attacking goal scored in the 37th minute.

After Knudsen’s attempted long throw into the area was headed clear, Christophe Berra’s failed attempt to come through the back of Garner and win the ball in the centre of the pitch suddenly left the Blues badly exposed at the back.

Humphrey quickly picked out forward sprinting Johnson and the dreadlocked Jamaican raced into the open space before producing a cool one-on-one finish.

Ipswich had lacked cohesion in the opening 45 minutes, but gradually grew in confidence after the restart.

Fraser produced a trademark burst to the by-line in the 49th minute, defenders’ legs dangling dangerously in the box, before his chipped cross was scrambled clear.

One patient passing move eventually came to nothing, Berra’s hooked shot cleared after keeper Jordan Pickford misjudged the flight of a cross.

Then McGoldrick fired narrowly over the bar from a difficult position following a sublime piece of control with the outside of his boot.

Ipswich’s golden moment arrived in the 65th minute. First there was patient, probing build-up, several players involved in a 20+ passing move from left to right. Then, at the end of it, Fraser – right on the angle of the penalty box – caresses a curling, floating, side-footed effort over the keeper and into the top corner.

It will surely end up a Championship goal of the season contender.

Town lived dangerously five minutes later. After an almighty goalmouth scramble, the ball was put back into the area, Paul Huntington’s header was pushed out by Gerken and Knudsen produced a brave last-ditch block on Garner.

And there was another heart in mouth moment in the 75th minute when Garner forced Humphrey’s cross over the line from close-range, the referee disallowing it and booking him for the use of an arm.

It was yet more infuriating play from a talented player who spent most of the game throwing himself to the floor.

Preston introduced Beckford off the bench for the final 15 minutes, but Ipswich defended manfully with their own sub – Maitland-Niles – relieving pressure at the other end.

PRESTON NORTH END (3-5-2): Pickford; Clarke (cpt), Huntington, Wright; Humphrey, Kilkenny (Beckford 75), Welsh, Gallagher (Reid 82), Cunningham (Woods 32); Johnson, Garner.

Unused subs: Kirkland, Vermijl, Browne, Brownhill.

IPSWICH TOWN (4-2-3-1): Gerken; Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Knudsen; Skuse, Douglas; Fraser (Toure 85), McGoldrick (Maitland-Niles 61), Sears; Pitman.

Unused subs: Crowe, Emmanuel, Kenlock, Tabb, Coke.

Attendance: 12,330

Referee: Mr M Brown.

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