Carayol first goal for Town proves to be the winner
Muzzy Carayol’s first goal for Town was enough to give Blues three deserved points at Deepdale.
The free agent signing in January had already gone close for Town before bursting clear of the Preston defence to calmly slide the ball past Declan Rudd midway through the first-half.
Martyn Waghorn was denied a second soon after as North End struggled to deal with Town on the break and the points could have been sealed before the break.
Bart Bialkowski had to save from Tom Barkhuizen late on as Town completed the double over North End and kept alive the slim Play-Off hopes.
Joe Garner was back in the Town line-up and was given a warm reception by the home fans on his return to Deepdale. Carayol was handed his first start for Blues in another of five changes made to the side that went down to Cardiff in midweek.
Barkhuizen got around the back of the Town defence but had too much on his cross, Carayol far more accurate with his delivery that needed a clearance from Ben Davies.
Ben Pearson and Callum Robinson linked up well to release Barkhuizen whose cross forced a corner but from the delivery, Waghorn led a break and Carayol cut inside to force an excellent save from Declan Rudd, the winger then off target with the rebound from close range.
Carayol was a constant danger to North End and opened up a crossing opportunity from the left that tested Davies again at full stretch, Pearson then sending in a terrific cross that begged to be tapped over the line but beat everyone.
Davies headed over from a corner but on 21 minutes Town were ahead, Carayol showed his pace to beat a static Preston defence and finished expertly in the far corner.
Bialkowski had to punch clear as Preston looked for an immediate response, Carayol then setting up a great chance for Waghorn after destroying Preston with his pace and it needed a brilliant block by Greg Cunningham to prevent Town extending the lead.
Carayol released Waghorn free down the left and from the cross, Dominic Iorfa hit the bar with his shot, then Cole Skuse tested Rudd from 25 yards as Town looked the far more threatening.
Preston made a double change seven minutes before the break with Calum Woods and Callum Robinson replaced by Joshua Earl and Joshua Harrop as Alex Neil changed things up.
Skuse went in the book for a foul on Barkhuizen on the edge of the box, then Davies followed for bringing down Waghorn on the halfway line as the Town striker threatened to get clear on goal as a first-half came to an end that could well have seen Blues out of sight.
Luke Hyam replaced Carayol, who had been ill in midweek, at the break but Town still started the better and Rudd had to be alert to take the ball off Iorfa following yet another counter attack from Blues.
Bialkowski held firm from Cunningham’s drive, Garner threatened from Iorfa’s cross, then Waghorn had a shot blocked.
Billy Bodin was high and wide with his strike from 25 yards before being replaced by Daryl Horgan midway through the half in Preston’s final change.
Garner limped off to be replaced by Freddie Sears, Earl bringing a save from Bialkowski as Preston searched for an equaliser, Waghorn heading over at the other end from Jonas Knudsen’s cross.
Barkhuizen couldn’t beat Bialkowski with a header from Horgan’s cross and with it went North End’s chances of getting anything from the game.
Preston: Rudd, Cunningham, Pearson, Browne, Woods (Earl 37), Davies, Moult, Huntington, Barkhuizen, Robinson (Harrop 37), Bodin (Horgan 66). Subs not used: Maxwell, Gallagher, Spurr, Welsh. Booked: Davies.
Town: Bialkowski, Iorfa, Carter-Vickers, Chambers, Webster, Knudsen, Connolly, Skuse, Carayol (Hyam 46), Garner (69), Waghorn (Spence 90). Subs not used: Crowe, Celina, Ward, Gleeson. Booked: Skuse, Garner, Waghorn.