Lions beat play-off hopefuls
By Simon Fudge. Last Updated: 24/04/05 3:41pm
Millwall denied Preston North End the chance to secure a play-off place with a 2-1 victory at The New Den.
Goals from Peter Sweeney and Barry Hayles gave Dennis Wise's side all three points on Sunday afternoon, despite David Nugent scoring a fine second half equaliser.
It was Preston that started the brightest, with Patrick Agyemang heading Paul McKenna's free kick from the right wide of goal.
The Lions soon replied, but Danny Dichio nodded David Livermore's cross from the left well wide of Carlo Nash's goal.
Yet, Millwall made the breakthrough after nine minutes when Dichio allowed Jody Morris's cross from the left to go over his head and Sweeney swept in to convert his chance from 10 yards.
Despite the delight of taking the lead against The Lilywhites, Millwall were forced into a goalkeeping change just after the quarter hour mark when Andy Marshall was stretchered off with what looked like a serious neck injury following a collision with Richard Cresswell.
Graham Stack came on to replace Marshall in the Millwall goal, as the Lions number one needed to be put in a neck brace and taken to hospital with his injury, as seven minutes of injury time needed to be added at the end of the first 45.
Before the break, the home side should have increased their lead when Hayles dispossessed Nash in the Preston box after the keeper fumbled Chris Lucketti's headed back pass.
The former Fulham striker then eluded Nash and Youl Mawene, but he delayed too long with his close range shot and Nash recovered to make a fine save.
Matthew Hill then went close with a curling strike for Preston while Dichio missed the target with a header, as Millwall took the lead into half time.
The second half saw Paul Ifill replace Sweeney at the restart after the goalscorer pulled up with a hamstring problem.
Both sides traded chances until just before the hour mark, as Preston equalised through the in-form Nugent.
Hill's ball forward was flicked on by Cresswell to the former Bury striker and his sublime right foot volley flew past Stack to make it 1-1.
The play-off contenders had their tails up and captain Lucketti had his byline cross from the right blocked by the arm of substitute Dennis Wise, but referee Phil Joslin waved away Preston's appeals.
That decision proved decisive, as The Lions went on to claim a winner with 14 minutes left.
Hayles took Ifill's low cross from the left and played a give and go with Dichio before striking a right foot shot that eluded Nash to make it 2-1.
With Preston looking to get something from their trip to South East London, Cresswell missed a major chance to restore parity when his right foot strike failed to find the target in the dying stages.
The result means Billy Davies's side must look to secure post-season football with results in their final two matches of the season.
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