Three and easy for Preston at Forest despite Jordan Hugill’s absence
Hugill was left out of the team amid transfer speculation.
Preston made light of top scorer Jordan Hugill’s absence with an impressive 3-0 Sky Bet Championship victory over Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.
Hugill has been linked with both Crystal Palace and Leeds ahead of Wednesday’s transfer deadline and was left out of the matchday squad.
But Billy Bodin’s first goal for the club since arriving from Bristol Rovers and second-half efforts from Tom Barkhuizen and Daniel Johnson gave Preston a deserved victory and keeps them in touch with the play-off places.
Forest, meanwhile, followed a tepid FA Cup exit at Hull with another uninspiring display, despite manager Aitor Karanka making several changes to his side.
Preston manager Alex Neil made changes of his own, most notably omitting Hugill but also handing Declan Rudd a first league start in goal for the club at the expense of Chris Maxwell.
The club released a brief statement on Twitter explaining Hugill’s absence, denying any deal regarding his exit had been completed.
The statement read: “We can confirm Jordan Hugill was available for selection this evening, but given recent speculation regarding his future the manager decided a team fully focused on the game was what would be needed for the match.”
Forest were the better side in the early stages, with Barrie McKay finding Ben Osborn in the left channel after six minutes, although the midfielder was unable to pick out a team-mate with his low cross.
From the subsequent corner Apostolos Vellios flicked an effort wide after Joe Worrall’s header had been nodded back across goal by Matty Cash.
Three minutes later Cash went on a weaving run down the right, but Vellios curled his effort over from 20 yards over the bar after being picked out in space on the edge of the box.
Vellios and Cash linked up again in the 20th minute, and this time the Greek’s powerful effort hit team-mate Kieran Dowell and deflected to safety.
A Preston counter-attack saw Paul Gallagher curl their first meaningful effort a fraction wide, before Michael Mancienne headed a Dowell corner off target at the other end.
It was Mancienne’s error at the other end that led to the opener. The former Wolves defender dallied on the ball, allowing Callum Robinson to steal it off him and send Bodin clean through to slot home.
Forest lost their way after conceding and North End fully deserved to double their advantage on the hour-mark, when the unmarked Barkhuizen headed in Gallagher’s corner.
Mancienne compounded a miserable evening for the hosts when he needlessly bundled Bodin over in the box seven minutes from time, and substitute Johnson fired home a third.