Reading 1-2 Preston: Evans brace sends visitors into play-off spots
Preston climbed into the Sky Bet Championship top six with a hard-earned 2-1 victory over fellow play-off chasers Reading at the SCL Stadium.
In a drab first half, Preston midfielder Brad Potts squandered the best opportunity when miskicking wide from close range but the game livened up after the interval, with Ched Evans putting North End ahead in the 51st minute.
Reading levelled 20 minutes later through a Lucas Joao penalty but Evans grabbed his second – and the winner – with 11 minutes remaining.
North End started the game in eighth place, one point off the play-off spots after a run of five victories in eight outings.
But with both teams playing their third game in seven days, neither created much of note in the scrappy opening exchanges.
Reading did manage to force the first corner, in the ninth minute, in a rare moment of intent.
But Junior Hoilett’s delivery from the set-piece was poor and allowed Robbie Brady to head clear at the near post.
Preston were pegged back again soon after, when home captain Andy Yiadom slung over a cross from the right and Yakou Meite rose alone but his ambitious looping header failed to trouble Preston goalkeeper Freddie Woodman and drifted well wide.
As the visitors continued to sit back, Andy Carroll was similarly wasteful with a wild volley from just outside the area.
Preston finally got their act together going forward, shortly after the half-hour mark, when Brady found space on the left flank.
Potts arrived unguarded at the far post but totally miscued his attempted finish and the chance went begging.
Nevertheless encouraged, Preston went closer before the break when home keeper Joe Lumley had to save smartly from Brady at his near post.
Reading started sluggishly in the second period, with Preston exerting immediate pressure on the home goal.
Lumley had to move quickly, when a weak headed back pass from Tom McIntyre landed short of him and he had to nip in to deny Emil Riis Jakobsen.
But Preston were soon in front, six minutes after the interval, when Brady provided another precise cross and Evans glanced home a fine header.
It was the Welshman’s first goal of the season – and first in 35 matches.
However, it awoke Reading from their slumber and, after Joao had nodded over a Yiadom cross, the pair combined again for the 71st-minute equaliser.
Yiadom did superbly to wriggle his way into the Preston area and, after he had been clumsily brought down by Brady, Joao slammed home the subsequent penalty for his fourth goal of the campaign.
But Preston responded swiftly and, eight minutes later, they were ahead again – Evans firing home an angled effort that flew past Lumley.