2017-18 English League Championship, Regular Season
  • Lewis Grabban (66' PEN)
  • Tom Barkhuizen (37')

Lewis Grabban secures point for Villa

Lewis Grabban netted his first goal for Aston Villa to scramble a nervous 1-1 Championship home draw against Preston.
Tom Barkhuizen, North End's leading marksman, put the play-off chasing Lilywhites ahead in the first half.
But Villa equalised as a result of a controversial penalty converted by on-loan Bournemouth striker Grabban in the 66th minute.
A struggling Villa, who had been looking to complete the double, therefore missed the chance to move into second place in the table.
Villa were seriously depleted due to the absence of Albert Adomah, Ahmed Elmohamady and Jack Grealish, although they made a good start when Preston were undoubtedly indebted to goalkeeper Declan Rudd.
The former Norwich stopper had to make a spectacular save flinging himself to his right to keep out a powerful shot from Birkir Bjarnason and a minute later Rudd saved a John Terry header as Villa strived to build an early advantage.
After losing their first league game in eight at Fulham on Saturday, Villa attempted to bounce back in style but they were thwarted by an equally determined Preston side who exploited the midlands club's shortcomings.
Preston, who had skipper Greg Cunningham and Ben Pearson back in their side, played with quiet confidence as they slowly found some attacking form generally generated by Alan Browne.
A dreadful clearance by Terry gave Preston a golden opportunity to take the lead but Callum Robinson's snap shot from 20 yards went narrowly wide of the post with goalkeeper Sam Johnstone completely out of position.
But it was Rudd who continued to take the first-half honours with another point-blank save from Scott Hogan.
Frustration began to creep into Villa's play and it was clearly evident that they sadly missed the creative ability and drive of Grealish, while Mile Jedinak struggled badly in midfield.
Consequently Preston were able to pose real problems with some smooth attacks which had Villa back-peddling.
The pressure was relieved by Alan Hutton moving forward to fully test Rudd's undoubted ability.
Preston, who had only lost one game in their previous 16 Championship matches, demonstrated their attacking danger when Barkhuizen put them ahead in the 37th minute.
Johnstone, who gave away a bad goal at Fulham, attempted to punch the ball clear only to set up Barkhuizen to score with a scissors kick which looped into the roof of the net.
The goal definitely put Villa on the back foot and after the break they made a double substitution, sending on strikers Grabban and Keinan Davis.
Preston continued to look the more dangerous with Johnstone forced to make a fine save from a Paul Huntington header but Davis won a penalty which live-wire Grabban casually converted with a low shot into the middle of the net.

English League Championship Standings

1 West Bromwich Albion 33 +23 63
2 Leeds United 33 +18 59
3 Fulham 33 +11 56
4 Brentford 33 +27 55
5 Nottingham Forest 33 +12 55
6 Preston North End 33 +10 53
7 Bristol City 33 +2 53
8 Blackburn Rovers 33 +10 50
9 Cardiff City 33 +3 50
10 Millwall 33 +2 49
11 Swansea City 33 0 48
12 Sheffield Wednesday 33 +3 44
13 Derby County 33 -4 44
14 Birmingham City 33 -7 44
15 Reading 33 +4 42
16 Queens Park Rangers 33 -7 42
17 Hull City 33 -4 41
18 Middlesbrough 33 -9 37
19 Charlton Athletic 33 -6 36
20 Huddersfield Town 33 -14 36
21 Stoke City 33 -12 34
22 Wigan Athletic 33 -17 31
23 Luton Town 33 -27 30
24 Barnsley 33 -18 28