United end 2015/16 with a 1-1 draw at Deepdale...
PRESTON 1 (Hugill 90+1), UNITED 1 (Wood pen 78)
Preston team: Kirkland, Vermijl, Wright, Huntington, Woods, Browne (Robinson 70), Johnson, Gallagher, Reach, Beckford (Doyle 62), Garner (Hugill 79). Subs: Hudson, Pearson, Welsh, Humphrey.
United team: Silvestri, Coyle, Bamba, Cooper (Wootton 45), Taylor, Diagouraga, Murphy, Cook, Mowatt (Antenucci 67), Dallas (Vieira 89), Wood. Subs: Peacock-Farrell, Phillips, Botaka, Antenucci, Doukara.
Referee: Andy Haines
Att: 18,473 (5,464)
United’s final game of the 2015/16 season, a lunchtime trip to Preston North End, saw head coach Steve Evans make two changes from the previous weekend’s defeat to Charlton Athletic, with Toumani Diagouraga and Alex Mowatt returning to the starting line-up in place of Liam Bridcutt and Jordan Botaka. Elsewhere, young midfielder Ronaldo Vieira was named among the substitutes just two days after agreeing his first professional contract with the club.
The early exchanges suggested a typical end-of-season affair would be on the cards at Deepdale, with both goalkeepers remaining untroubled during the opening 20 minutes as possession frequently swapped hands in the middle of the park.
United had looked to threaten early on, Chris Wood dragging a low effort well wide from distance, but the first real chance of the game eventually fell to Preston’s Joe Garner midway through the half as he turned a deep cross wide from close-range.
Marco Silvestri was called upon for the first time to get down sharply to block Adam Reach’s low cross at his near post, before United’s best opening of the afternoon so far came on the half-hour mark.
A brilliant ball over the top from Lewie Coyle set Wood away down the right and, with Kirkland seemingly caught in two minds and off his goalline, the United striker attempted a lob but could only find the roof of the net with his first-time effort.
Mowatt then headed a right-wing Stuart Dallas cross over the bar following some fine build-up play as United looked to be getting on top of their hosts.
Garner did pass up another fine opportunity to open the scoring for Preston on the stroke of half-time, though, heading over Silvestri’s bar from inside the area after meeting Reach’s drilled cross from the left.
United were forced into a change at the break, with Scott Wootton replacing the injured Liam Cooper in defence following a clash of heads with Garner seconds before the half-time whistle.
The second half began in a lively fashion and Preston, who remained unchanged, were first to threaten as Calum Woods surged into the area before blazing over the bar from a wide angle.
The hosts soon carved another good opening but Garner was wasteful from 10 yards out as Silvestri clutched his side-footed effort after Reach’s cutback had been deflected into his path.
At the opposite end, Kirkland was forced into a fine, two-handed save to push away Wood’s header for United following a pint-point cross from Taylor. Evans was prompted into his second change of the afternoon as he urged his side forward, replacing Mowatt with Antenucci in an attack-minded move.
Preston had half chances through Bailey Wright and substitute Callum Robinson, firing wide and over the bar respectively, but United eventually managed to break the deadlock with 12 minutes remaining.
Wood, taking his tally to 13 for the season, hammered a penalty into the roof of the net after Kirkland had tripped Luke Murphy at the back post to spark pandemonium among the travelling United supporters.
Preston threw everything forward in search of an equaliser during the closing stages, and Sol Bamba was well-placed to head Paul Gallagher’s effort off the line before Silvestri denied Woods with a superb flying save.
The hosts were able to force an equaliser during the first minute of stoppage time, though, as substitute Jordan Hugill turned the ball home from close range to ensure United’s season ended with a point.