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English Championship 106 - Transfer/Gossip thread


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Re: English Championship 106 - Transfer/Gossip thread

Preston wont notice Bale absence, says Burrow

Preston manager James Burrow has laid down the gauntlet by letting his team now that a sub-par performance will be unacceptable tonight against promotion-chasing Coventry City, even without the talents of Gareth Bale.

The Welsh Wizard picked up a slight knock during the match vs Queens Park Rangers on the opening week of the season, and as a precaution was substituted and will not be risked for the next fortnight. Two-goal star Stephan El-Sharaawy is expected to fill the void left by Bale, who was last season's player of the year, while striker Andy Carroll will return from suspension to partner Stevan Jovetic in a familiar looking strike partnership. However, a determined-looking James Burrow said during his pre-match press conference that Bale's absence should be unnoticeable, and that it is the responsibility of his squad to step up to fill the void left:

"Gareth wont be available tonight or for the weekend match, but I dont expect that to change anything. The squad doesnt just revolve around one player, and his absence allows for someone else to stake a claim for that shirt. If Stephan or Andy put in stellar performances tonight and on Saturday, then they have a great chance of keeping their place when Gareth returns. But if anyone plays with a defeatist attitude because Gareth isnt here, then they should fully expect a stern meeting come tomorrow morning. Last season we had a poor away record, but we did get some good results against the better teams. Coventry are a good team, and a team who will be vying for promotion come March, but in order to stake our claim to a top two place, we must be capable of beating these sorts of sides. Am I confident? Well I wouldnt be sat here talking to you about defeatist attitudes if I wasn't."

Paul Scholes and Peter Crouch have both travelled with the squad, yet are likely to have to make do with a cameo role from the bench. While Preston don't have any former Sky Blues, Coventry have five former North Enders in their ranks, with loanees Jon Aurtenetxe and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain joining Youssouf Mulumbu, Romelu Lukaku and Antonio Valencia in sharing both Lilywhite and Sky Blue allegiance.

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Re: English Championship 106 - Transfer/Gossip thread

Goals galore as Preston triumph at Ricoh

Preston made it two out of two in the league this season, beating Coventry City 4-3 in an end-to-end match which was a great advert for the English game.

Coventry remained unchanged from the opening day victory over Shorpe United, while Preston made one enforced change, with Andy Carroll returning from suspension to replace the injured Gareth Bale.

Preston burst out of the traps to start the game, with Hugo Campagnaro shooting from long range but missing the target. Preston dominated proceedings for the first ten minutes but on the ten minute mark, Coventry were given a golden opportunity to take the lead. Campagnaro lunged in on midfield powerhouse Ramires and the Brazilian hit the deck, with the referee pointing striaght to the spot. Replays showed that the decision was a bit harsh, with Campagnaro getting a toe to the ball before making contact with Ramires. Edin Dzeko stepped up to the spot and blasted the ball past Howard in the visitors net. Preston looked to get back on level terms immediately through Carroll, however the pony-tailed striker couldnt get his header on target. Preston were then gifted a chance to get on level terms, Diego Lugano bringing down Carroll outside the box. Steven Gerrard floated in the resulting free-kick but neither Jovetic or Carroll could head it home.

Preston's lack of accuracy in front of goal would prove costly, as Coventry doubled their lead through Dzeko. The Bosnian striker headed home Diego Lugano's cross to give the Sky Blues a 2-0 lead, despite Preston's dominance. However, Preston got a crucial goal just before the half-time break, David Beckham's corner headed home by defender Raul Albiol. The teams went into the break at 2-1 to Coventry, however the travelling Preston fans must have been wondering how they weren't a few goals ahead, rather than behind.

The second half began with Coventry looking favourite to extend their lead, Brazilian striker Welliton forcing Howard into an amazing two-handed save. Campagnaro then entered the referee's notebook for another lunge, this time on Romelu Lukaku. Preston then got back on level terms, a foul by Jonny Evans gave Steven Gerrard a chance to atone for his earlier poor delivery from the dead ball, and that he did. A teasing cross was headed home by Carroll to draw the sides level. However it didnt take Coventry long to be back in the lead, Lukaku playing in Welliton to finish first time with a bullet strike. The penalty count was then 1-all after Beckham was taken out by Greek international Vasilis Torosidis. Captain Steven Gerrard stepped up and powered the ball home.

Preston turned up the tempo with two substitutes, Craig Bellamy and Michael Owen coming on for Aaron Lennon and Stevan Jovetic. That would prove decisive, with Bellamy squaring the ball to an up-field Campagnaro, who repeated his attempt from earlier, but with a better result, beating De Sanctis into the bottom corner. Coventry launched a late assault to try and grab a share of the points, with Valencia and Welliton forcing saves out of Tim Howard, but the final whsitle came, and was greated with a roar from the 3,000 travelling North End fans.

We spoke with both managers after the final whistle, with Preston manager James Burrow feeling a mix of emotions after an enthralling contest:

"It was a good game for the neutral, and I bet not many of our fans have any fingernails yet, but we came out with a win in the end. Tomorrow we'll look back on this as three goals conceded, but tonight we'll be grateful that we're free scoring, and we have goals from all over the park. When Campagnaro had that shot in the 3rd minute I were wondering who he thought he was, but to his credit, he wasnt afraid to try again and it won us the match. When that penalty of theirs went in I was wondering if we were going to get a fair rub of the green, but overall the game was officiated well, and it made for a great contest. I said before the game that Covetnry are a hrad team to beat, and they pushed us hard, but I'm glad to be coming away from here with three points."

We also caught up with Coventry manager Wayne Harman, who was dejected but optimistic ahead of their next game against Leyton orient:

"I'm disappointed to be standing here talking about a loss after we played quite well. Preston had a lot of the ball but we kept them at bay, but a few bad tackles from us have cost us dearly. We know what a threat Gerrard is from set-pieces yet we gave him the opportunity on three separate occasions. We're disappointed to score three yet still lose but hoepfully we can take these goals into the Leyton Orient match and tighten up at the back."

Preston are one of three teams in Division Two with a perfect record, all from the North West. Rivals Carlisle Utd and Blackburn Rovers occupy the top two spots, with Covetry dropping to 9th. The Lilywhites play host to Norwich on Saturday, another team boasting talent, yet find themselves bottom of the league with Liverpool.

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Re: English Championship 106 - Transfer/Gossip thread

Forlan on form as Canaries crush North End

Preston's unbeaten start to the season came to an abrupt end to the hands of Norwich City, who triumphed 4-1 over the Lilywhites at Deepdale.

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Former Preston front-man Diego Forlan helped himself to a hat-trick, on his first appearance of the season and his first game against his old employers after leaving Deepdale for £15m having scored just two goals in a fruitless season at Preston.

Preston started in the ascendancy, with Tom Huddlestone and Steven Gerrard both going close in the first ten minutes. Preston limited Norwich to longe-range chances, and it was from long-range that the first break-through was made. Another former Prestonian, Marko Marin, squared the ball over to centreback Luisao, who in a repeat to Hugo Campagnaro's effort against Coventry, beat Tim Howard who looked as if he wasnt expecting the shot. Almost immediately the deficit was doubled, Mathieu Valbuena playing in Forlan to find the far corner. Angry scenes broke out in the home section as the Uruguayan celebrated in front of the home fans, albeit accidentally.

Forlan came close to doubling his own personal tally half-way through the first half, but against the run of play, Preston gained a lifeline. After Lennon was fouled by goalscorer Luisao, captain David Beckham stepped up instead of the usual candidate Steven Gerrard, but the elder statesman showed he can still cut it with the dead ball, beating Allan McGregor at the far post. Preston ended the first half on top, with Stevan Jovetic forcing a save after beating his marker to the header. However the half time whistle blew with Preston still down a goal.

Norwich came out the stronger team in the second half, maestro Marko Marin dictating the play, with Howard kept busy in the Preston goal. It was a Marin-Forlan combo which produced Norwich's third goal, Marin's ball from the wing was met by the head of Forlan, and Howard could not dive fast enough, the ball bouncing into the net. The Uruguayan learnt his lesson from the first goal, keeping his celebrating more discreet.

It was all change on the hour mark, with Michael Owen and Jordan Henderson replacing Lennon and Jovetic, and Pablo Aimar, Juan Vargas and Oscar replacing Giggs, Valbuena and the impressive Marin. This slowed the tempo of the game, with neither side finding the cutting edge, with murmurs of discontent coming from the North End fans. With two minutes to go, Forlan's hat-trick, and the match, was sealed, Mateo Mussachio's lobbed ball finding Forlan who slotted the ball past Howard to seal his hat-trick. Preston manager James Burrow looked a forlorn figure on the touchline, while the stands rapidly emptied. The final whistle blew to roars from the away section, while Forlan claimed his match ball as the spoils of war.

Preston manager James Burrow was apologetic towards the fans, and vowed to root out the problems which lead to defeat tonight:

"I can only apologise to the fans for this abject display. We started positively but that two minute double salvo knocked us. For the first ten minutes Tim wasnt really tested, then when Luisao let rip it caught him by surprise. As a former keeper I know that shots like that can play on the mind for the rest of the game, and after the match Tim was distraught with his performance. We will look at the highlights tomorrow, and see where we can improve, it was a poor performance by all tonight. We threatened to stage a comeback but half-time came at the wrong time, and after then we were always facing an uphill struggle. Im sure Diego (Forlan) didnt mean to celebrate in front of our fans, in any other match I would be happy for him to score, he's a great finisher but just couldnt find his shooting boots here. It's no surprise that Norwich struggled to score before tonight if he wasnt playing."

Preston will look to put this defeat behind themselves when they visit Glanford Park, and Fabio Quagliarella's Shorpe United, while Norwich take on Birmingham looking to rekindle their own title charge.

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Re: English Championship 106 - Transfer/Gossip thread

Coventry 0 - 1 Leyton Orient

Leyton Orient manager Zak Cluer looked as happy as could be as his side came out 1-0 victors over Coventry at the Ricoh Arena. Leyton managed their first win in 5 attempts against Coventry, losing 8-1, 5-0, 4-1 and 2-1 in the process. Although the win was not that of a margin of any of those, Zak Cluer can be happy that his team put in a very strong performance to battle it out again Harman Coventry.

Leyton Orient took the lions share of the possesion after ex Leyton Orient player Antonio Valencia was sent off early on into the game, Orient scored shortly after the sending off, from then on looked as if they were going to stride to the victory line.

Few words from Orient manager, Zak Cluer; "We played extremely well, we kept the ball well and did not faff about with it, the defence were strong, Zarate done what he was meant to do and the midfield made sure Coventry didnt see the ball. Over all I was very happy, although felt a few more goals could have done us good.

I was happy to bring on young lad Labyad late on into the game, it was his first apperance for us and I was very satisfied. We are very much so looking forward to the Friendly tie against Preston North End tonight, im going to give the full first team a rest. A few youngster will be starting and some older head's who im trying to get fit after pre-season."

Leyton face QPR next in the league, it will prove to be a tough tie.

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Re: English Championship 106 - Transfer/Gossip thread

Preston back to winning ways with close-fought victory over Orient

Preston bounced back from two successive defeats to beat Leyton Orient 3-2 at Deepdale, however had goalkeeper Tim Howard to thank for the victory, with the goalkeeper pulling off a world class save to deny Leyton Orient a share of the spoils.

Last time out at Deepdale, Preston had been embarrassed by Norwich City, and former player Diego Forlan. They started this game in the best possible fashion. Loanee Miralem Sulejmani played a low ball through to the feet of Andy Carroll who stabbed home from close range past Mihaylov. Preston continued to pepper the Orient goal, with Mihaylov being equal to all Preston could throw at him. Leyton Orient's first chance came through Mauro Zarate, however Tim Howard had no trouble catching the shot. Shortly after it was 2-0, and it was Carroll again who finished with aplomb past Mihaylov, a placed left-footed strike leaving Mihaylov flailing at thin air. At this rate the Geordie striker looks set to easily beat last season's tally of 12.

Preston continued to pile on the pressure, with Orient not allowed one second on the ball. A rough but fair challenge by Gerrard set midfield dynamo Aaron Lennon on his way, and he fired a shot past Mihaylov just inside the fair post, for his first goal since returning to the Lilywhites. The Leyton Orient fans looked to have travelled all this way for nothing, however veteran bone-breaker Mark van Bommel gave them something to cheer about with a long range strike which caught Howard off target. A worrying concern fro Preston is the frequency at which goals from far out are going in, with at least one goal from outside the box going in per game.

Half time came and went yet Leyton Orient still managed to keep the momentum, with captain David Beckham forced into a rash challenge, earning him a yellow card. Goalscorer van Bommel was later substituted for Wout Brama, with Souza Alex leaving the field to be replaced by Exteberria Benat. It was Brama, linked with a move to Preston this week, who set up Alvaro Pereira for Orient's second, and left Preston fans on the edge of their seats. Preston fans must have thought their team had thrown the points away when Mauro Zarate was left unmarked 30 yards out and let rip, but Howard atoned for his earlier error with an acrobatic dive to deny the Argentine his 4th goal of the season. The final whistle blew to both cheers and sighs of relief from the Preston fans.

After the game, manager James Burrow was critical of his side's performance in the second half, but was sure Preston's new formation would be the start of a more consistent run of form:

"We were fortunate to come away with a win tonight, and considering the start we made, we should have seen out that game comfortably. I think at 3-0 some players thought the game was won and switched off a bit, but you cant afford to do that in this league, and its dwon to the heroics of Tim (Howard) that I'm not talking to you about a draw. The performances had it's negatives and positives. I thought despite the two goals against, the back four looked more solid than the three we had been playing, which allowed players like Lennon and Sulejmani to concentrate on matters up the field. Andy took his goals very well, for a tall guy. If we can keep supplying him with the ball, we could be looking at a 20 goal season for him."

Preston have the luxury of a bye in the First Round of the English Cup, so they are not in action until Wednesday, when they visit Liverpool, in what will be a reunion for Scouse legends Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher.

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Re: English Championship 106 - Transfer/Gossip thread

Luiz future in doubt already?

Preston North End's newest signing David Luiz may never appear for the Lilywhites, according to his manager today.

Luiz penned a two-year contract with the club yesterday after completing his move from Leicester City, a move which has seen Alberto Botia and Dennis Aogo move the opposite way, and Jordan Veretout and Landon Donovan set to follow shortly. However, the SMFA have refused to sanction Luiz's move yet, and therefore will be ineligible to play for Preston until the situation is resolved.

At today's press conference ahead of Wednesday's Sky Live clash between Liverpool and Preston, manager James Burrow was expected to be joined by his newest recruit, but the absence of one floppy-haired individual puzzled the onlooking journalists. Here was what the manager had to say:

"David is not here due to a technical issue involving the SMFA. To finance our deal for Luiz, we sold Fredy Montero to Real Salt Lake. We received a fee and therefore went straight in for Luiz. However, as with all transfers in and out of the MLS, issues arise regarding the central contract which all players must sign, as well as their club contract. The SMFA did not receive clearance that Montero had signed for Real Salt Lake before Luiz signed, and it is down to this that while David ed a contract, he is not eligible to play. We hope that the situation is resolved quickly so we can get him on the pitch."

Luiz would miss Wednesday evening match anyway due to an ankle injury picked up in his last game with Leicester City, and so with the loss of Luiz and Botia, former Liverpool favourite Jamie Carragher is elevated to the bench against his former club. Former Liverpool players Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique are also set to start for Preston, who have an outside chance of reaching the top of the table with a win at Anfield.

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Re: English Championship 106 - Transfer/Gossip thread

Preston fail to break down stubborn Reds defence in bore draw

Wednesday night's Sky Live meeting between Liverpool and Preston North End failed to live up to its billing, with neither side finding the net in a 0-0 draw.

Both Preston and Liverpool lined up in almost identical 4-2-3-1 formations, with Samuel Eto's spearheading Liverpool's attack while the vertically-gifted Andy Carroll lead from the front for North End. No fewer than four former Liverpool players lined up for Preston, with former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard looking to continue his great run of form.

Preston had the best of what was an uneventful first half, with Andy Carroll's placed shot easily saved by Gianluigi Buffon, while the experienced Italian stopper was also a match for Stevan Jovetic on two occasions. Liverpool's first meaningful attack of the first half fell to Eto'o, whose strike was deflected onto the post by goalkeeper Tim Howard who was a alert to catch the ball on the second attempt.

The galf time break seemed to give Liverpool a new lease of life, with Wesley Sneijder and Angel Di Maria both challenging Howard but to no avail. The pace of the game slowed as both sides made multiple changes. Liverpool brought on Spanish international David Villa for compatriot Jesus Navas, while in a surprising switch, Slovak rookee Michal Skvarka replaced Ricardo Montolivo as Liverpool moved to a front three. Preston replaced Carroll and Miralem Sulejmani with another former Red, Peter Crouch, and the returning Gareth Bale, who had missed the last four games through injury. Villa was soon amongst the action, his looping header forcing an acrobatic save from Howard. The impressive Spaniard then turned provider to Eto'o, but the Cameroonian shot fizzled wide of the far post. What would be Preston's last shot came with ten minutes to go, Gerrard threaded the ball through to Crouch, but his well struck effort was matched by Buffon in goal.

The full time whistle blew to end a contest which was fiercely fought in the midfield, but lacked goals. Sky Sport's Geoff Shreeves caught up with Preston manager James Burrow, and this is what he had to say:

"It was a great match for the neutral, with so many world class, talented players on show. Ahead of the game, it was thought that the occasion might get to some of my players, but they played like it was any other game. I thought our passing was top-notch, we had them chasing shadows for large parts of the game. Their defence played very well though, Mertesacker especially against the threat of Carroll. Maybe a more fleet-footed striker may have had a better time, but I wasnt to know that beforehand. The team played well and is a great sign after the first few games."

Burrow was also questioned on the David Luiz saga, after reports stated that the Brazilian may be unable to make his debut on Saturday due to administrative issues:

"If he is fit to play, then Luiz is in line to make an appearance on Saturday, whether that be as a sub or starting. The paperwork has been checked and double-checked and he is officially a Preston player. He watched on tonight but was sure to rest his ankle, it's still a bit swollen and he'll only be considered for selection if he's 100% fit.

Preston take on West Bromwich Albion at Deepdale on Saturday, in what will be a welcome return for former Preston goalie Marco Amelia, the 30 year old who helped Preston to Division One in Season 11.

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Re: English Championship 106 - Transfer/Gossip thread

Inspired substitutions lead Preston to victory

Preston North End move into the play-off spots with a hard-fought 3-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion.

Late goals from Steven Gerrard and Peter Crouch took the victory after the first half had ended all-square, with a Yoan Gourcuff free-kick cancelling out Gareth Bale's early effort.

West Brom were the first to draw a save from the opposition goalkeeper, defender Diego Lovren headed Alexandre Pato's free-kick towards goal, however Tim Howard was equal to it. Preston were far more successful with their first shot on goal. After some intricate link-up play in the centre of the park, Stevan Jovetic played a defence-splitting pass which returning winger Gareth Bale ran onto. The Welshman, back after a month out through injury, placed his shot past former Preston 'keeper Marco Amelia and nestled in the far corner. The Preston crowd went up in raptures, as Bale arn to the corner doing his trademark celebration. Andy Carroll's height was proving a problem for the Baggie's defence, and it was his header that fell to Stevan Jovetic fifteen minutes into the game, however the Montenegrin could not find the target.

West Brom midfielder Fernando Gago was the first to enter the referees notebook for a foul on Captain Beckham, however the tide began to turn as first Nico Pareja had a shot on target, before the Baggies were given the opportunity to level after debutant defender David Luiz fouled Bafe Gomis, another former Preston player. Frenchman Yoan Gourcuff placed the ball and curved his shot around the wall and inside Howard's near post. West Brom finished the half on top, with Loic Remy trying an audacious lob but was well off target.

The Baggies remained on top for the first quarter of an hour of the second half, Remy going for a simple shot this time, but still Howard wasn't troubled. Preston made two changes to try and slow the tempo, bringing on Peter Crouch and Stephan El Sharaawy for Carroll and Bale. The two soon linked up for Preston's second goal. El Sharaawy reached the by-line and sent a teasing cross into the six-yard box, which Peter Crouch side-footed into the net for his first goal since re-joining the club. West Brom looked to immediately get back on level terms, Gourcuff trying to emulate his dead-ball skills from open play, but pressure from Luiz forced his shot wide. Crouch came close to doubling his personal tally, however his shot rolled wide.

Preston would get their goal to seal it, three minutes from time. Diego Lovren brought down Stevan Jovetic clumsily, the Montenegrin wincing in pain. He left the action early, leaving Steven Gerrard to find the net and his third goal of the season. He was given the opportunity to repeat his free-kick heroics when Alan Kasaev brought down Beckham, but his shot was parried by Amelia. The full-time whistle blew and the crowd's reaction was a mix of elation for the win, but worry over the extent of talismanic striker Stevan Jovetic's injury. We spoke to Preston manager James Burrow after the match, who spoke of his delight over the victory, and about not just one, but two injury concerns:

"That was a tough game. West Brom have some great players, and their front three of Remy, Pato and Gomis is one of the best in the league. Gareth (Bale) took his goal very well, and after the lay-off he's had, he is buzzing about getting back in the goals. I took him off to prevent against any further injury, he got half an hour last week so if there's no ill-effects he should be ready for 90 minutes next week. Stephan (El Sharaawy) and Peter (Crouch) linked up very well for their goal, and Peter could easily have had a hat-trick himself! The height of our attackers really troubled West Brom, Carroll, Crouch and Jovetic are all six foot plus, and they couldnt cope.

Stevan's (Jovetic) injury doesnt look too bad, thank goodness. When I saw him in a heap I honestly thought we could be without him for months, but it turns out it's just bruising on the foot, it hurt but shouldnt keep him out longer than a week. David Luiz had an okay start to his Preston career, I think the injury was playing on his mind but he stuck with it. The injury flared up a bit towards the end so we may give him a rest for the next game, but overall, a gritty performance and another three points."

Preston keep the pressure up on the top three, moving three places up to 4th. Top two Carlisle and Reading drew, allowing Stoke to split the pair with a 2-1 win over Birmingham. West Brom drop into the relegation zone, with Midlands pair Coventry and Aston Villa the big movers in Division Two, moving into 11th and 12th from the relegation zone.

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Re: English Championship 106 - Transfer/Gossip thread

Preston keep up pressure on top two with dominant display against Chelski

Preston North End extended their unbeaten run to four games with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, despite playing over 20 minutes with ten men!

Two first-half goals from the influential Gareth Bale saw Preston to three points, with the Lilywhites enjoying the lions-share of possession and restricting their opponents to just four shots on target.

Preston got off to the best possible start, with Gareth Bale giving them the lead after 13 minutes after some good holding up of the ball from Andy Carroll. The striker laid the ball out to Bale who from 20 yards placed his shot right in the corner, past goalkeeper Helton. The goal came after a dominant early display from Preston, with Chelsea chasing shadows for the early moments of the match. Apart from Aaron Lennon picking up a booking for dissent after fouling Christian Maggio, the first half couldn't have gone more Preston's way.

The boos rang out from the Chelsea crowd as Preston continued to play unopposed, with the Blues first shot on goal coming in the 40th minute, Maggio's tame shot greeted with sarcastic cheers from the travelling Preston fans. Preston mounted a counter-attack from Tim Howard's long kick, Lennon's cross beating Carroll but falling to Bale at the back post. The Welshman went for power this time, yet still achieved the same result. Despite missing four games through injury, the Welshman has now averaged a goal a game, and already half the way towards last season's goal tally. Preston finished the half in the same dominant fashion, captain David Beckham swinging the ball into the box, and of all people to be on the end of it, the least likely candidate would have been Scholes, but the diminutive midfielder troubled Helton with a floating header, deflected wide for a corner. Nothing came of it, and the half-time whistle blew to boo's from the home crowd.

The second half began, with notable absentees in the home seating. Andy Carroll had two guilt-edge chances to add to his season tally of three, however his shot was wayward on both occasions. Carroll turned provider for former Chelsea defender Glen Johnson, who's adventurous run up front nearly resulted in a goal, but his audacious chip just wouldnt dip enough. Chelsea's second shot on target fell to a former Preston loanee, Carlos Vela, however the Mexican was no match for Howard's right glove. Preston's night was to be overshadowed soon after by the dismissal of Lennon for pulling Tymoschuk's shirt. The Ukrainean veteran took the resultant free-kick, but it sailed into the disgruntled crowd. As the home stands began to empty, Beckham had a late chance to make it three, however his long range shot went just over. The final whistle blew to yet more boos from the home crowd, as Preston returned to the North-West with three points. Manager James Burrow spoke to the press after the game:

"I dont wish to be disrespectful to the Chelsea fans, but I would be demanding your money back if you were here tonight, only one team turned up and it was us. Gareth got the goals but the team as a whole played excellently. The passing was crisp and the two goals were poles apart in terms of the build-up. The first was after a long passing move, the second on the counter after a long goal kick. Scholes had a good game in midfield on his debut, but in truth we weren't tested in defence. We kept the pressure up on at the top of the league, and going into the busy schedule with the cups, we might have the legs to catch up on them."

With Stoke dropping points away to Brighton, Preston move up a place to third, level on points with Reading and three points behind North-west rivals Carlisle who top the table.

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Re: English Championship 106 - Transfer/Gossip thread

Just want to apologise for taking the **** in this set up with Oxford. I have way to many teams and really wanted to be in a competitive English Championship, but I am finding that I am just not getting the time to commit myself to my other teams, so on the basis of last team in first out I have decided to resign as Oxford manager. Sorry Mr burrow, I don't usually quit teams so prematurely, but this damn game is engulfing most of my spare time and that is just not right! Sorry again for the inconvenience.

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Re: English Championship 106 - Transfer/Gossip thread

Formica Tomica a target for North End?

Speculation has been mounting over the future of Southend striker Sebastian Giovinco, after the Italian was left out of the side that beat Tranmere Rovers on Wednesday night.

Southend have been busy splashing the cash in recent weeks, completing the double-swoop of Alvaro Negredo and Kevin Kuranyi for a whopping £40m, a lot of money for a team bottom of Division Three. Giovinco missed the early matches of this season with a foot injury, but found his path back to the first team blocked by talented striker Eduardo Vargas, and is thought to be increasingly frustrated at the lack of first team opportunities at the club.

Giovinco, who can play all across the midfield as well as a striker, spent a season-long spell at Preston in Season 6, however the emergence of Stevan Jovetic severly limited his progression, and was sold to Charlton Athletic as part of the deal that brought Luka Modric to Preston for his second spell at the club. Giovinco was unavailable for comment as he joined up with the Italian national side, but Preston manager James Burrow spoke of his admiration of the player in his press conference ahead of the match against Leeds:

"Seb is a very dynamic and versatile player. He spent a short spell with the club a while back but he was unfortunate to be in a position where we had many talented strikers. If he was to become available, sure we would be interested. He is a similar player to El Shaarawy who we are in no rush to get rid of but there is next to no chance of us keeping him beyond a season."

An Italian has left Roots Hall for Preston, but the player in question is Italian U21 international Luca Marrone, signed for a cut-price £4m. Marrone, who's only starts have come for Northampton six seasons ago, has been capped 28 times by the Azzurrini and is hotly tipped to be the latest addition to the full Italian side, what with veteran Andrea Pirlo approaching retirement.

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Re: English Championship 106 - Transfer/Gossip thread

The North End Strikes Back as Preston triumph over Lancashire rivals again

Preston North End progressed to the Third Round of the English Shield after a nail-biting 2-2 draw with their Lancashire rivals Blackburn Rovers, with North End triumphing 4-3 on penalties.

Preston had beaten Rovers just five days earlier at Ewood Park, and the Blackburn outfit were eager to avenge that defeat. However, their task was made difficult early on, as midfielder Jonathan De Guzman scored his first goal for the Lilywhites just short of the 20 minute mark. The Dutchman took his strike well, having been set up by lone front man Peter Crouch. The first booking of a fiery night went to Preston's Clement Chantome, who brought down Spanish international Cesc Fabregas. Fabregas eyed up his shot however the ball sailed wide. Soon after, he would get the opportunity to atone for his error, after David Luiz clumsily bundled over Mario Gomez. The Spaniard played his shot under the wall, which caught former Blackburn keeper Tim Howard off guard, and rolled into the net. Defender Maynor Figueroa is known for his long range efforts, and he tried a screamer just before the break, however Rovers keeper Wojciech Szczesny watched it whistle by. The half-time whistle blew with the scores tied.

Blackburn came out the stronger team after the break, with youngster Jese winning a foul off goalscorer De Guzman, bringing about another booking. Gomez again hit the deck a few minutes later, Figueroa the culprit, who followed De Guzman into the book. Fabregas stepped up again, and this time fired his shot through the wall, after some good play by Xabi Alonso to split the wall. Paul Scholes and Kevin Mirallas both went close with efforts just before the hour mark, and as Preston looked likely to make a change, they got an equaliser. With Bale, Gerrard and Carroll waiting in the wings, Stefan Rienartz fouled Sulejmani on the edge of the box. Kevin Mirallas stepped up to the free-kick, and like in the English Cup match a week ago, found the back of the net. The three Preston subs took their seats again as Preston looked for a winner. The match slowed to a crawl as both sides looked jaded, with Peter Crouch and Sulejmani both finding the referee's notebook.

The final whistle blew which signalled penalties. Blackburn won the toss and choose to take the kick first. Mario Gomez picked up the ball and walked to the spot. He went for power straight down the middle, and was fortunate that his strike bounced in off the bar! Peter Crouch was up first for Preston, the lanky striker also choosing to go down the middle, with Szczesny diving to his right. Second half substitute Romarinho was next up, and the young Brazilian placed his shot out of reach of Howard. Sulejmani was next up for Preston, and his shot went in the opposite corner, with Szczesny nowhere near saving it. Cesc Fabregas was up next, hoping to add to his normal time double. However the Spaniard's shot was saved by Howard, with Fabregas falling to his knees. De Guzman followed, himself looking to add to his normal time goal. He was more successful, his shot deflecting off the goalies knee having gone down the middle. Mesut Ozil looked to keep Blackburn in the fight, and despite the unorthodox short run up, found the net. Kevin Mirallas was next up, and his penalty was dispatched cleanly, with the keeper diving the wrong way. Another second half substitute, Mateo Kovacic was handed the all-important penalty to keep Blackburn in with a chance, but the 18 year old fluffed it, with Howard diving the right way.

Preston manager James Burrow was available for a quick chat after the game, where he spoke of his relief to be through another game at Ewood, but was critical of his sides defending:

"We've come away from Ewood with two wins in a week, with another visit in a weeks time. The first half performance was good, Jonny (De Guzman) took his goal well, however they scored from two free-kicks, and we gave away far too many set-pieces. Sure we scored from one of our own, but the defensive play was sloppy, and when you face a team with players of the claibre of Fabregas, Gomez, Alonso, they dont need many chances to find the net. Towards the final whistle we looked knackered, as did Rovers. However our players stood up to be counted, and I cant ask for more when you score 4 out of 4 penalties. Mirallas had another good game, Sulejmani played okay but picked up a slight knock. I was surprised he came forward to take a kick, he had ice on his ankle during the break. Any win in the Cups is a bonus, our main objective is league success but if we keep winning in the Cups, thats more money and a chance for more silverware."

Preston face Wycombe at Deepdale in the Third Round of the English Shield in a fortnight's time, but ahead of that, we do it all again in the third part of the Lancashire Trilogy, back at Ewood for the English Cup Third Round tie with Blackburn on Monday.

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Re: English Championship 106 - Transfer/Gossip thread

Preston looking for respite after poor run of results

Preston North End will be hoping to bring to an end a torrid run of from with victory over Liverpool at Deepdale.

Tomorrow's meeting see's two sides who were in title contention struggling for point's over the festive period, with Preston's tally of 7 points from 18 at least better than the Red's 6. Preston have seen their stock plummet in the league, having once been 3 points off top spot, they find themselves 13 points away from 1st placed Queens Park Rangers, and level on points with tomorrow's visitors.

Having struggled to kill off games earlier in the campaign, Preston's main concern is the lack of concentration at the beginning and end of matches, with the away defeat to Norwich a prime example of this (A Mario Balotelli winner in the 89th minute won the game for Norwich.) Since the English Shield defeat to Manchester City, Preston have only failed to score just the once, their last outing, a 2-0 loss to Leyton orient where Steven Gerrard missed two penalties. Preston manager James Burrow greeted the gathered press today with hot mugs of tea, after a boiler failure resulted in a frosty reception for the Preston manager:

"Our form over the past month or so has been unacceptable! We can make excuses all we like, but the fact of the matter is, what was looking to be our best opportunity for promotion is slipping away with every game, and we need to put a stop to that, starting with tomorrow's game with Liverpool. For once we seem to be finding the net prolifically, its the defence which is causing concern, which is strange as this is the same defence from early in the season which was sound. I'm not looking to make wholesale changes now we are this far through the season, we will have to make do with the excvellent squad we have. It's just a case of making the quality count. We have 14 games left, and I'll be disappointed if we come away with 25 points or so.

Due to the frosty weather we havent been able to get out on the picthes that much, but let's not make that an excuse for a poor performance. As far as team news goes, Campagnaro is banned so there is an opportunity for Jamie Carragher to stake a claim for a regular place. Steven (Gerrard) had a torrid time during the week with the penalty misses and the injury which forced him off. He's a slight doubt for the game and I'll only play him if he's fully fit. He's raring to play against his boyhood team but at this stage of the season we cant afford to be without a key player for an extended period of time."

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Re: English Championship 106 - Transfer/Gossip thread

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English Cup Semi-Final Preview

Derby County v Darlington

Derby County play their League Cup semifinal tie at home against Darlington, giving them an advantage of home support and the chance of overcoming a stronger visitor side. The last time most viewers saw Derby, they were stunning Leicester with three goals and a clean sheet in the quarterfinal.

Darlington have been in horrible form as of late, picked 4 points from 4 league games, but earned a convincing 2-0 victory at Middlesbrough in their last Division 1 match. Dean Bryant, fortunately, currently own a mostly fit first-team squad with only left-back Aly Cissokho, the only injury issue. This will be the first time Bryant guiding a team in the semifinal of the competition and a trip to the Wembley will be a dream come true for the long-serving manager who have never reach to this stage in his previous 7-seasons stints with Carlisle United, Charlton Athletic and Chesterfield. Will Trafford, on the other hand, will have a huge task ahead of him, being the only team from the top tier still fighting in the competition.

The other semifinal takes place between Division 3 side Tranmere Rovers and Division 2 side Aston Villa, which will take place at Prenton Park. Both sides will be fighting for a trip to Wembley for the first time.

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Re: English Championship 106 - Transfer/Gossip thread

Burrow lays down gauntlet to Preston players

Preston manager James Burrow has challenged his players to finish the season unbeaten after a rotten run of form which saw the promotion-chasing Lilywhites drop into a mid-table battle.

Preston went five games without a win after the 4-1 victory over 5th placed Coventry City, with many linking Preston's drop-off with exits from both the Cup and Shield. Preston find themselves 4 points off the play-offs, and a whopping 13 points off 1st placed QPR, a team which Preston beat comprehensively on the first day of the season. In order to just be in with a chance of automatic promotion, the team will have to better than or equal the club record six consecutive wins set nearly six years ago, that's according to Preston manager James Burrow, who spoke ahead of his side's 'Roses' clash against Leeds Utd tonight:

"The past few weeks have been a bad time to be a Preston fan, and for that I apologise to those who come to watch us week in, week out. I dont believe the cup defeats were to blame for this run of form, we stated from the start the cup was not the priority this season. We made an excellent start to the season and perhaps we ran out of steam over the past month or so. The season is a marathon and not a sprint, and in recent weeks, we've made effort to try and breathe some life into some tired legs. Tim (Howard) and Glen (Johnson) have been ever-presents, Stevie (Gerrard) has only missed one game, and Bale has played every game which he's been available too, and it's no coincidence that recently their performance levels dipped somewhat. Hopefully having had a bit of a break, they can push on for the final ten games. We're going to need to play exceptionally well to get back in the running for promotion.

Tonight we play Leeds who are just above us, then Blackburn who are in the play-offs, then bar Carlisle, everyone else is below us in the table. Our form against teams in the bottom half isnt the best, but I dont see why we cant get three points from all these games. We've beaten Blackburn three times this season, we were unfortunate to lose 1-0 to Carlisle, so thats potentially another six extra points. Im aware that if we win every game remaining, that will set a new record, but it's not records which pay salaries, its being in the top league, fighting it out with top teams."

Preston have a fully fit squad to choose from, after Steven Gerrard came through 90 minutes against Chelsea unscathed after recent fitness issues. Club talisman Stevan Jovetic was dropped for the Chelsea game, and may also miss tonight's game in favour of former Leeds midfielder Paul Scholes.

Leeds also have a clean bill of health, and are likely to stick with the same team which toppled table-toppers QPR on Saturday.

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Carragher to retire at the end of the season

Preston and Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher has decided to bring to an end his football career at the end of this season, closing the book on a career spanning 17 seasons and over 400 appearances for club and country.

The 35 year old has been a bit-part player at Preston this season, only starting the last two league games this season, partly due to the signing of Brazilian defender David Luiz. 'Carra' made 248 appearances for his hometown club of Liverpool, through the highs of winning four Division Two titles, including a league and cup double in Season 7, and the lows of relegation to the 2nd Division In Season 8. He made the switch to Deepdale part-way through Season 10, in exchange for Ashley Young and Emiliano Insua. During his time at Preston he captained the side to English Cup success in Season 13, and led out the Lilywhites in their first ever European campaign. The veteran defender is known for his tough tackling rather than his goalscoring, however in Season 11 did achieve a career best of 5 league goals and 6 assists. Speaking to pnefc.tv, he spoke of the gut-wrenching decision to call it a day, but refused to speculate on his future past the end of the season:

"It was a very difficult decision to make. At 35 my legs arent the freshest they've been, and with the busy schedule of league and cup games, they have taken their toll this season. I really want to carry on but I think now is the best time to call it a day, Preston and Liverpool have been great clubs to play for, captaining both sides has been a real achievement for me, and I will find it hard to watch on from the sidelines from now on. Hopefully my experience will prove useful for the likes of Luiz and the other youngsters at the club. I believe once Preston find the last piece of the puzzle, they can be a top division side once again. I have had no contact over any backroom role available, and I dont want to pressure the club into offering me a role, if they dont need a new coach, then they shouldnt appoint one."

Preston fans have been quick to post their tributes to Carragher on various forums and noticeboards on the web, with @lilywhite4eva posting on twitter: "Gonna miss carra, true professional, hard to find a replacement. Hope we sign him up as a coach #pnefc" Some fans questioned the timing of the announcement, with Carragher playing well against Brentford last night.Some fans have also highlighted the example of Paul Scholes, who retired before returning to Leeds, who then sold him to Preston.

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Re: English Championship 106 - Transfer/Gossip thread

Preston back to winning ways as Jovetic finally hits home

Preston North End emerged victorious from their Division 2 tie with Reading at Deepdale last night, the final score being 2-1 to the Lilywhites.

There was a rousing reception before kick-off for captain Jamie Carragher, who announced his retirement earlier in the week. He captained a side which saw 4 changes from the midweek stalemate at Brentford. In goal, Michel Vorm took the place of American keeper Tim Howard (leaving Glen Johnson as the only ever-present player this season). Jose Enrique was recalled in a more familiar back-four formation, replace Clement Chantome. Stephan El Sharaawy was rested, with Stevan Jovetic leading the line, and Aaron Lennon replaced Andy Carroll.

The game started at quite a high tempo, with Aaron Lennon testing Heurlho Gomes after just three minutes. Jose Enrique also had a shot sail wide before the first piece of controversy. Steven Gerrard's cross was deflected by the arm of Reading midfielder Oscar De Marcos, with the referee instantly blowing for a penalty. Replays suggested that De Marcos couldnt have done much to get his arm out of the way, but the decision stood. Steven Gerrard stepped up for the penalty, and blasted it just under the bar. That was Gerrard's 12th goal of the season, and his first goal since the loss to Liverpool nearly a onth ago. Reading's players continued to protests the decision as the ball was re-spotted for the centre-kick.

Parity was restored not long after. Reading were awarded a corner which former Preston striker Craig Bellamy walked up to take. His cross bent into the box and up rose former Preston defender Phil Jagielka to nod past Michel Vorm from close range. This swung the possession in Reading's favour, with bellamy and De Marcos both going close, and another Bellamy corner going to waste. In the 29th minute Jamie Carragher tried his luck from 30 yards out but his shot almost went out for a throw. Carragher is not expected to score goals, but a man who is is Stevan Jovetic, the Montenegrin having failed to score in 1290 minutes this season. However on the half hour mark, his amended that stat. Jovetic played a one-two with Gerrard and the striker unleashed a rocket-shot which beat Gomes at his near post. The crowd erupted into celebration while Jovetic was mobbed by his team-mates. David Luiz almost made it 3-1 not long later, but Gomes was equal to his strike.

Half time came with Preston finishing on the front foot, but Reading could feel aggrieved for being behind, after the dubious penalty call. The second half was a much more sedate affair, understandable given the hight tempo beginning at what is nearly the end of a tough season for all clubs. Franck Tabanou crossed the ball into former Preston striker Peter Crouch, who's header was only kept out by a reaction save from Vorm. Jovetic had another attempt just short of the hour mark but his placed shot rolled just wide. Crouch tried his luck with his feet but his shot was tame and Vorm was more than equal to it. Not much happened for the last half hour, however with five minutes to go, Crouch ran on to a long ball from Jagielka and his shot was parried away for a corner. Bellamy took the corner, and Jagielka's header sailed over the bar.

The final whistle blew to the cheers of Preston fans, with manager James Burrow fist-pumping the air in delight. Jovetic received most of the praise, with an exhausted Carragher receiving a round of applause from the Preston fans. After the game we spoke to both managers, and to Carragher and Jovetic:

JB: "That was a solid performance by the team, I cant help but think where we would be hand we been this solid for the past ten games but we cant change what's happened. Every player on that pitch wearing white played their socks off, and no player deserves more praise than Stevan Jovetic. This hasn't been his best season by a long way. Injuries and a loss of form have restricted his appearances somewhat, however today's performance was evidence of the phrase 'Form is temporary, Class is permanent.' That was Steven's first penalty since he missed two against Leyton Orient, but he put that one away as if he's never missed one. The appreciation of Carra tonight shows how much he means to the club and how we are all sad that he will be leaving us. He came to talk to me on Tuesday and told me he thought the time was right to call it a day. I'm not one to stop him doing what he thinks is right. He is a model professional and know's his own limits."

MH: "If the referee gives a penalty for that, the he must give many more penalties. How can Oscar move his hand there? We lost two points due to the referee bottling it! It's a shame as overall we played well, Crouch and Bellamy proved a handful but credit to Vorm, he played very well."

Carra: "I'd like to thank all the fans for their support tonight, not just for me but for the team as a whole. It was fairly emotional when I heard the cheers after my name was read out. We played solidly, restricted Reading to just a few chances. I glad for this lad too (Jovetic). I dont know much about scoring goals but if you're a striker there's always pressure when you dont find the net. Hoepfully without that burden on his shoulders he should get a few more before the season's out."

SJ: "It's been a frustrating year for me, with the injuries and lack of goals. I'd like to thank the manager for his continued support in me, and the fans for keeping the faith. I hope I can get a few more goals soon, and maybe get back into the play-offs."

Preston face Birmingham on Wednesday night at St Andrews, but will have to do without influential winger Gareth Bale, who picked up a slight foot injury and will be out for a week.

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Re: English Championship 106 - Transfer/Gossip thread

Birmingham City v Preston North End

Match Preview

Preston face a tough trip to the Midlands tonight, facing a resurgent Birmingham side who will be out to avenge the 3-1 loss to leaders Queens Park rangers at the weekend.

Preston's win against Reading on Saturday rekindled the faint chance of a play-off place for Preston, who fell from the automatic places to the bottom half ina matter of weeks. Birmingham in comparison have been routed to the bottom of the league for the majority of the season, with 11 points from a possible 18 bringing them within 10 points of safety. The Brummies however, are a known bogey team for Preston, with Birmingham coming out on top in 2 of the last 5 league meetings, and unbeaten in recent friendly history.

Preston could give a first start for Spanish striker Michu, who signed late last night in an exchange deal with Stoke City involving Andy Carroll. Michu found appearances hard to come by at the Potteries, however scored in his last appearance against Birmingham. Manager James Burrow is forced into at least one change, with Gareth Bale missing out with a bruised foot. Stephan El-Shaarawy is expected to deputise. Stevan Jovetic may keep his place after his first goal of the season at the weekend. Michel Vorm is in line to make his 50th appearance for Preston should he start.

Birmingham have a fully fit squad to choose from as they battle to escape relegation. The Blues have been free-scorers in recent weeks scoring a total of 13 goals in 3 games, however the 3-1 reverse at QPR coupled with wins for West Ham and Midlands rivals Aston Villa came as a real blow to manager Gary Mack's plans. Defender Matija Nastasic could be in line for his first start of the season, should Birmingham maintain their back-five formation. Top scorer Patrick Herrmann has an impressive record of 8 goals in 4 games (including all 4 in the 4-2 win over Barnsley)

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Re: English Championship 106 - Transfer/Gossip thread

Rare Carra goal proves decisive as North End beat Brum

Preston North End kept their promotion aspirations alive with a 1-0 victory over relegation-threatened Birmingham City, with the goal coming from a very unlikely source!

Preston captain Jamie Carragher rose highest to head home Steven Gerrard's corner early in the first half. In a close fought game were Preston kept more of the ball, Birmingham had chances to score, the on-form Patrick Herrmann firing wide on no less than two occasions. Stevan Jovetic came close to making it 2-0 but Fraser Forster was equal to his efforts. New signing Michu was on the bench for Preston but didnt make an appearance, as Preston held on for their 14th win of the season. However, Birmingham are running out of time to save themselves from relegation. The Blues find themselves 11 points from safety after Stoke City beat West Ham 3-2 in a relegation six-pointer.

At the top of the table, QPR continued to march towards the Division 2 title, beating play-off contenders Brighton and Hove Albion 1-0 at the AMEX Stadium. The Hoops are now 6 points clear of Leyton Orient who suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat to Brentford. The play-off places suffered a huge shake-up, with Blackburn dropping to 4th after a 2-1 defeat to Liverpool, who move above Brighton into 6th. Carlisle beat managerless Barnsley 3-2 at Brunton Park, while Coventry beat Aston Villa in an all-Midlands affair by the same scoreline. Leeds and Reading kept up the pressure on 8th placed Preston with 6-1 and 6-3 victories over West Brom and Shorpe respectively. Despite victory over Chelsea, Norwich drop a place to 11th due to Reading's big victory.

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Re: English Championship 106 - Transfer/Gossip thread

Division Two Results - 16/02/13

Queens Park Rangers failed to guarantee themselves at least a play-off place after a late Olivier Giroud penalty saw struggling Aston Villa secure a vital 2-2 draw in the quest to avoid the drop. The Frenchman gave the Villans the lead after just five minutes from a long ball from Victor Ruiz. QPR drew level after half an hour, loanee Nikica Jelavic heading home past Manuel Neuer. Gael Danic gave QPR a 2-1 lead with just three minutes to go, but a clumsy tackle by Rangers defender Souleymane Diawara on Denilson gave Giroud the opportunity to deny QPR the three points, and that he did. The point sees Villa six points ahead of 17th placed Shorpe, who lost to fellow strugglers Birmingham.

Birmingham provided a goal-fest at St Andrews, thrashing their relegation rivals Shorpe 5-1 to leave them just eight points from safety. Nigerian striker Emmanuel Emenike doubled his season's goal tally with a superb hat-trick, with Lorenzo Insigne and substitute Ricardo Rodriguez adding a 5th. Shorpe got off to the better start, with Portuguese international Varela finding the net after just three minutes, however Emenike got his first in the 18th minute and the Blues never looked like losing. Shorpe rallied to try and find a way into the game, but found their attempts blocked by the impressive Fraser Forster. With this victory, Birmingham are now on 28 points, but more importantly, on a better goal difference than three of their four closest relegation rivals.

Leyton Orient's poor run continued with a 1-0 loss to Reading at the Matchroom Stadium. Peter Crouch scored his third goal in four matches since his move to Preston after just 7 minutes, and that was it for goals, in what was a rather drab game where both teams were struggling to string together fluid passes. Orient drop out of the automatic places after a third successive league defeat to the benefit of Carlisle, while Reading also drop one place to 11th after Norwich's win took them ahead on goal difference.

Carlisle moved into the automatic promotion places with a 1-0 victory over West Ham United. Eren Derdiyok stabbed in his 16th goal of the season from a Dusan Tadic cross after just six minutes. West ham thought they had equalised in the 22nd minute when Paulo Assuncao ran onto Alberto Aquilani's through ball and slotted past Fabien Audard, but the linesman flagged for offside and the goal didn't count. West Ham are firmly in the relegation trouble, just two points ahead of 20th placed Birmingham.

Coventry City lost ground on the promotion places with a 2-1 loss to Stoke City, with Terence Griffin still unbeaten as Stoke manager after two games. Stoke went into a two-goal lead just either side of half time, Jose Callejon and Felipe Santana on target, the Brazilian scoring a goal on his full début. Romelu Lukaku scored what would prove to just be a consolation goal on the hour mark on his return from injury, but it wasn't enough for the Sky Blues, who drop a place to 6th. Stoke City remain in 14th, but are now 8 points from the drop zone and more-or-less safe for another season.

Liverpool continued their slow but steady climb up the table with a 2-2 draw against Brentford at Anfield. Things did not go to plan when Danny Sturridge and Theo Janssen scoring either side of half time to put Brentford 2-0 up and cruising. However the game changed on a 74th minute penalty, for a foul by Rocchi on Fernandinho. The Brazilian stepped up and slotted the penalty home past Emiliano Viviano. Five minutes later, Liverpool were level through a Samuel Eto'o free-kick. Liverpool move up to 5th, one point ahead of Coventry and one point behind Blackburn in 4th.

Preston North End won for the third game in a row with a 1-0 victory against fellow promotion chasing Brighton and Hove Albion at Deepdale. The decisive goal came from loanee Stephan El Shaarawy in the 25th minute, played in by Stevan Jovetic for the 20 year old's 8th goal of the season. Brighton's hopes of getting back into the game were extinguished by the second half dismissal of defender Theodor Gebre Selassie for a lunge on Jovetic. North End close the gap on Brighton to just two points, who are a further point off the final play-off spot.

Leeds left it late to take three points from Stamford Bridge after a 1-0 victory over Chelsea. Substitute Abdelaziz Barrada caught Chelsea goalie Ali Ahamada off his line and scored a 30 yard screamer over the Frenchman's head. Leeds kept in the play-off hunt with victory last night, however Chelsea fans find themselves looking over their shoulder, with a nine point gap between themselves and 18th placed Shorpe with five games left.

West Bromwich Albion came from behind to draw 2-2 with high-flying Blackburn Rovers at the Hawthorns. French international Yoann Gourcuff gave the Baggies the lead, only for Lucas Moura and Xabi Alonso to turn the match on it's head after the half-time break. A late goal from Alexandre Pato rescued the points for the Baggies, who stay in 16th, five points above the relegation zone. Blackburn stay 4th, but are now four points from automatic promotion and three points from dropping out of the play-offs.

Norwich inflicted further woe on unmanaged Barnsley, beating the Tykes 3-1 at Oakwell. Midfielder Gabi gave Barnsley a 1-0 lead early on, but a brace from Mario Balotelli plus a 63rd minute strike from Antonio Nocerino secured the points for the Canaries. Norwich move into the top half ahead of Reading on goal difference. Meanwhile Barnsley are left just three points above the relegation zone.

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Re: English Championship 106 - Transfer/Gossip thread

Aston Villa vs Preston North End

Division Two

Match Preview

Preston return to familiar stomping grounds to take on a relegation threatened Aston Villa, as the Lilywhites hope to continue their late season surge into the play-offs.

Preston are unbeaten in three, and come off the back of successive clean sheets for the first time this season. Their last away outing was to Villa's Midlands neighbours Birmingham City, where a goal from outgoing captain Jamie Carragher netted North End three points. Aston Villa have struggled for consistency of late, recording two wins, two draws and two losses in their previous six games. However, they come into this game on the back of a hard-fought draw against league leaders Queens Park Rangers, and victory tonight could see them on the verge of safety.

Aston Villa are sweating on the fitness of strikers Victor Obinna and Olivier Giroud, who both pulled up with knocks against QPR. Other than the pair, the Villans are at full strength ahead of tonight's encounter. The loss of Giroud would be a big loss to Aston Villa, with the Frenchman scoring four in his last four games to take his season's tally to 14 games. Dieumerci Mbokani is on standby should Giroud not make it, however the Congolese striker has not been a favourite of manager Carlos Tevez, only making the one appearance so far this season.

Preston welcome back Aaron Lennon for the trip to Villa park, after the England winger served his one match suspension for five yellow cards. However his passage back into the first team isnt guaranteed, with stand-in Stephan El-Shaarawy scoring the decisive goal in the weekend's 1-0 victory over Brighton. Preston have a fully fit squad to choose from, with captain Jamie Carragher cleared to play despite the busty fixture schedule. £10m signing Michu has yet to make his debut yet having only made the bench twice, as Stevan Jovetic has been preferred in the lone front role.

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Division Two Results - 21/02/13

League leaders Queens Park Rangers fell victim to a resurgent Stoke City, after a thrilling 4-3 victory for Stoke at the Britannia Stadium. QPR took a two-goal lead through Nikica Jelavic and Sabri Sarioglu, however Stoke soon brought the scores level through a quick-fire double from striker Yannick Djalo. QPR took the lead again through Aleksandr Ryazantev only for Giampaolo Pazzini to equalise a minute later. The moment the match turned in Stoke's favour came after an hour, QPR midfielder Gael Danic was dismissed for a second yellow card for a foul on Pazzini, before Djalo completed his hat-trick with 20 minutes to go. Rangers lead is reduced to four points at the top of Division Two, while Terence Griffin's Stoke move within four points of guaranteed safety.

Leyton Orient brought to an end a poor run of form, beating relegation threatened Birmingham City 1-0 at St Andrews. A lone goal from midfielder Benat was enough for the O's, who leapfrog Carlisle Utd into the automatic promotion places. This latest setback in Birmingham's bid for survival sees the Blues 9 points from safety with just 12 points left to play for. Relegation could be confirmed on Saturday depending on Barnsley's result away at Anfield.

Carlisle Utd drop out of the automatic promotion places after a thrilling 3-2 defeat at the hands of play-off hopefuls Coventry City at Brunton Park. Eren Derdiyok scored his 15th goal of the season for Carlisle, only for Romelu Lukaku to continue his good scoring run with an equaliser after 20 minutes. Antony Mounier gave Carlisle the lead once again after the half time break, only for Lukaku to peg them back once again. The winning goal came from Brazilian Welliton, who took his season tally to 21 goals with a cheeky chip over Fabien Audard. Coventry consolidate their play-off place, with a four point cushion over 7th placed Brighton. Meanwhile, Carlisle find themselves just three points ahead of the Sky Blues, in what looks to be a tantalising finale to the season.

Blackburn Rovers maintained their promotion push with an emphatic 5-2 victory over Chelsea, placing more pressure on Blues boss Razvan van Gaal. A hat-trick from Lucas Moura plus a brace from England striker Wayne Rooney completed what was a comfortable victory for Rovers, with late goals from Didier Drogba and Andriy Yarmolenko proving mere consolation. Blackburn find themselves just six points off top spot, and another six points from 7th placed Brighton. Meanwhile, three defeats in a row for Chelsea sees them drop two places to 14th, just six points from the relegation places.

Liverpool smashed Reading 5-1 to keep up with the chasing pack eyeing promotion, thanks to a hat-trick from the league top scorer Samuel Eto'o, taking his tally to 25 for the season. David Villa and Darren Bent completed the rout, with former Liverpool forward Peter Crouch providing the opportunity for a comeback when two-nil down, but was not to be. The score looked a bit harsh on Reading, who matched Liverpool in almost everything except goals. The Reds stay 5th, while Reading stay 11th, dropping to a goal difference of -2.

Preston failed to keep up with their promotion chasing rivals after only drawing 2-2 with 15th placed Aston Villa. An early goal from Elano got Villa off to the best start, however a sublime free-kick from Gareth Bale brought the sides level. Victor Obinna gave the Villans the lead again shortly before half time with his 4th of the season. Preston left it late to draw level, a headed goal from David Luiz threatening a comeback, but the winning goal never came. Preston stay 8th but fall 5 points back from the last play-off spot. More concerning for Preston fans were injuries to Bale and Stephan El Shaarawy, the former set to miss the remainder of the season.

Shorpe pulled off one of the shocks of the night, turning over Brighton 4-1 at the AMEX Stadium. A three-minute triple salvo from Brighton's Bostjan Cesar and Shorpe's Varela and Selcuk Inan turned a 1-0 Shorpe scoreline into a 3-1 Shorpe scoreline, with Varela adding a second in the last minute. Fabio Quagliarella gave Shorpe a 14th minute lead with his 7th of the season. Shorpe stay 18th but just one point from 17th placed Barnsley. Brighton stay 7th but lose ground on the play-off places, falling four points behind and just one point ahead of Preston.

New Barnsley manager Luis Miguel Veigas saw his side snatch a late equaliser to draw 2-2 with West Ham at Oakwell. Barnsley took the lead in the scond half through Danilo, only for the Hammers to go 2-1 ahead through goals from Oscar Serrano and Emiliano Moretti. However a stoppage time goal from Ivo Ilicevic earned Barnsley a vital point to keep them a point away from Shorpe. However, West Ham find themselves in a relegation dog-fight, with the gap between them and Barnsley still six points.

Brentford and West Brom shared the points at Griffin Park, with Brentford coming from two goals down to draw 2-2 through goals from Milan Baros and Cacau. West Brom had taken a two goal advantage through French pair Rio Mavuba and Yoan Gourcuff, however a late lapse in concentration sees the Baggies extend their winless run to seven games, leaving them just three points from the relegation zone. Brentford stay 13th, 7 points from the relegation zone but officially out of the promotion challenge.

Norwich and Leeds shared the spoils after a 2-2 draw at Carrow Road, a result which is bad for both sides as their promotion dreams slip away. Early goals from Mario Balotelli and Sidney Sam saw the match tied, while a quick-fire double from David Nugent and Aleksandr Kerzhakov saw the match end 2-2. The result sees Leeds and Norwich drop 6 and 7 points off 6th placed Coventry City.

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Re: English Championship 106 - Transfer/Gossip thread

El Shaarawy open to extended loan spell at North End

Italian striker Stephan El Shaarawy has hinted that he would be happy to stay at Preston North End, whatever division they are playing in next season.

The 20 year old, signed from Southampton on loan for the season, has been a mainstay in the Preston team over the past few weeks, scoring 8 goals in 16 games, including a brace on his league debut against Queens Park rangers at the start of the season. El Shaarawy is currently sidelined after picking up a dead leg against Aston Villa, which is unlikely to keep the impressive striker out of the team for long, however his deal with the club expires at the beginning of March, with a possible extension being granted should Preston reach the play-offs, for which they are five points adrift with four games remaining. Speaking to pnefc.tv today, he thanked both manager James Burrow for giving him his opportunity, and also the fans who have supported him through his breakthrough season:

"I have enjoyed this season very much. I have been plying for Southampton's youth team for a long time and have been waiting for the opportunity to test myself in full games. I got off to the best possible start, and overall I am pleased with how my year has gone. My injury isn't too bad and I should be back before the end of the season, where we can hopefully get back into the play-offs.

I'm very grateful to the manager for giving me the games. Times have been tough this season and I have been in and out of the team, but I have enjoyed the opportunities that have come my way and I would love to stay for another year. It is my dream to play for my national side and I feel I have a better opportunity to achieve that at Preston than at Southampton.

Finally I would like to thank the supporters for their continued support. I was moved by the cheers after my debut game were I scored twice, and while I couldn't keep that scoring run going, I have nothing but gratitude for the people of Preston, and I will forever hold a place in my heart for them."

Preston have been linked with other Southampton youngsters, with Italian Fabio Borini and Serb Filip Djuricic rumoured to be making the move to Preston next season. Preston manager James Burrow also revealed that the club are in advanced talks over an unnamed defender, while also hinting that Jamie Carragher may continue on for another season, after he revealed he would retire at the end of the season.

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Re: English Championship 106 - Transfer/Gossip thread

Preston North End v Stoke City

Match Preview

Preston hope to put the disappointment of a draw against Aston Villa in mid-week behind them as they fight to get back into play-off contention with just two weeks of the season remaining. While Preston cannot get into the play-offs with victory tonight, they can move within two points of 6th placed Coventry. Stoke meanwhile are on great form after the hiring of Terence Griffin as manager. Four straight wins have taken Stoke into mid-table and victory tonight will see Stoke plying their trade in Division two for another season.

Preston are forced into two changes, with Gareth Bale and Stephan El Shaarawy both picking up injuries in the 2-2 draw at Villa Park. Bale's injury looks certain to keep the Welshman out for the season, so Belgian international Kevin Mirallas steps in for only his second league start of the season. Aaron Lennon looks certain to regain his place on the right, with Stevan Jovetic preferred to former Stoke striker Michu. Glen Johnson faces a late fitness test, as the only Preston player to have played every game this season for the Lilywhites.

Stoke City come off the back of an impressive 4-3 victory over league leaders Queens Park Rangers, with Yannick Djalo scoring a hat-trick. He looks certain to keep his place, but Nacer Chadli, Fredy Guarin and Marouane Fellaini are expected to miss the game. Former Preston striker Andy Carroll has yet to score for his new club in three starts, the England striker scoring 6 times for the Lilywhites before his move to the Potteries.

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Re: English Championship 106 - Transfer/Gossip thread

Carra bows out as Preston make up ground in play-off race

Preston North End extended their unbeaten run to five games with a 2-0 victory over Stoke City at Deepdale, but at a price.

Two free-kicks from Steven Gerrard sealed victory over the in-form Potters, but an injury to Jamie Carragher in the dying minutes looks set to bring to a premature end an illustrious career for the 35 year old defender. It was Stoke who started on the front foot, Nacer Chadli and Jose Callejon going close in the first few minutes. David Luiz feed in Aaron Lennon for Preston's first attempt on goal in the 10th minute, but his power shot sailed wide. Preston took the lead not long after. Defender Stefan Radu brought down Lennon just outside the box in a central position. Steven Gerrard and David Luiz stood over the free-kick, and Gerrard smashed it under the wall to give Preston the victory. Stoke looked to get back on level terms almost immediately, Chadli forcing an athletic save from Michel Vorm. Preston finished the map in the ascendancy, with Beckham, Campagnaro and Jovetic each going close but finding Vicente Guaita a formidable foe.

Half time came and went, and Stoke came out rejuvenated and hell-bent on finding an equaliser. Big-haired Marouane Fellaini got above his marker and headed towards the corner, but Vorm parried his attempt around the post. Stefan Radu attempted to atone for his earlier error with a stinging point-blank shot from Pazzini's header, but again Vorm was equal to it. Preston soaked up the second half pressure and came back stronger, with Stevan Jovetic futile in his efforts to add to his solitary league goal this season. Preston doubled their lead not longer after, and it was that man Gerrard with the magic touch once again. Felipe Santana was deemed to have jumped unfairly in a challenge with David Luiz outside the box and up stepped Gerrard again. It seemed Gerrard's earlier strike had unsettled Guaita, as his starting possession was towards the far post. Gerrard duly slotted the kick inside the front post, leaving Guaita with egg on his face. The second goal took the wind out of Stoke's sails, and it was a case of by how many Preston would win by, not if Preston would win. David Luiz tried from range but Guaita was equal to it. Gerrard was given the opportunity to make it a hat-trick of free-kicks, but instead left the kick to Luiz, who failed to hit the target.

Then came the major talking point. Former Preston striker Andy Carroll and Preston captain Jamie Carragher both slide in for a 50/50 ball. The referee deemed the challenge legal but the 35 year old defender came off worse, hobbling for a few minutes before leaving the field with 6 minutes to go. The jubilant Preston crowd fell silent as they watched the retiring Preston and Liverpool legend leave the field in pain. The final whistle blew and while some Preston fans celebrated their team's victory, some were anxious as to the extent of Carragher's injury. We spoke to Preston manager James Burrow shortly after the game, on both the victory and his captain's injury:

"It was a good win. We kept the ball well, limited Stoke to a handful of chances. They would always be a danger in the air with Fellaini and Carroll, but we neutralised that threat well, Carra and Campagnaro did their jobs well. Gerrard took his goals very well, it's often hard to trick a keeper twice, but that he did. With Bale and now Carra's injury, it's vital that we keep Stevie fit. Speaking of Carra, it's hard to tell with these injuries. For a young fledgling footballer they can shake off these injuries, but at 35 it becomes harder to come back from them. Normally its a 3 or 4 day lay-off with the rest of the week recovery, but with Carra we have to think of his life after his football career. We don't want him living with a serious injury brought on by over-exerting him. In case we don't see him again in a Preston shirt, myself, the staff and everyone associated with Preston North End would like to thank Jamie for his service to the club, and his never-say-die attitude to the cause."

Preston jump a place to 7th after Brighton succumbed to a heavy loss to Leyton Orient. Furthermore, Coventry, Liverpool and Carlisle all dropped points, leaving Preston 7 points off 3rd placed Blackburn with three games to go. Stoke went into tonight's game knowing a win would guarantee their safety, however Shorpe's loss to Aston Villa means they only need a point against Leyton Orient to secure their Division Two status.

In related Division two news, Birmingham City became the first team to drop out of the second tier after they could only draw against Liverpool 1-1 at Anfield. They look set to be joined by West Ham Utd, who barring a crazy shift in goal difference are relegated after a 2-1 loss to Norwich.

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