Tue 14 Feb 17
at 21:30 PM
Report: Preston North End 2 Blues 1
Blues suffered a frustrating defeat at Deepdale as Gianfranco Zola's side were beaten 2-1 by Preston North End.
It was a bad start from Zola's men who found themselves 1-0 down after only eight minutes in what was a disappointing opening 45 minutes.
However, Blues kicked into life after the break and pulled level through Che Adams just after the restart.
The decisive moment in the match though came 12 minutes from time as Jordan Hugill pounced to put Preston ahead, moments before Blues were reduced to 10 men.
It was the hosts who started the brighter of the two sides as Hugill forced Tomasz Kuszczak into an early save when Ben Pearson's pull-back found the striker in the middle but his effort was straight at the Blues 'keeper.
After eight minutes Preston took the lead through Callum Robinson. Aiden McGeady's inviting cross from the left, headed home by an unmarked Robinson in the six-yard box.
McGeady and Robinson continued to cause Blues problems through the first-half, as well as Daryl Horgan on the right who forced Kuszczak into a couple of smarts saves throughout the half.
Having soaked up a lot of Preston pressure, Blues grew into the half and worked a couple of openings themselves.
Kerim Frei, who came in for the suspended David Davis, played a neat one-two with Jutkiewicz on the edge of the Preston box but he could only stab his effort narrowly wide.
Another player returning to the starting line-up was Che Adams, who thought he was in on goal, only to be denied by a good covering tackle by Preston captain Tom Clarke.
Kuszczak was again called into action just before the break when he was forced to turn Greg Cunningham's effort over the bar.
Zola made a change at the break, Josh Dacres-Cogley replacing Frei, switching to a 3-5-2 formation which saw an immediate impact.
Two minutes after the restart and Blues were level through Adams. The forward latching onto a Lukas Jutkiewicz knock down before firing past the Preston 'keeper Chris Maxwell from the edge of the area.
After the break and Adams' goal, Blues looked the better side and settled into the 3-5-2 system well, with Cheick Keita and Emilio Nsue both getting forward.
Keita working the ball onto his right foot, but unable to wrap his foot around the ball, seeing his effort go over the top and Nsue's header back across the face of goal just needed a red shirt in the six-yard box but unfortunately for Blues and Zola no one was there and Preston got it away.
Skipper for the night Craig Gardner then saw his low free-kick saved by Maxwell and held at the second attempt.
Moments later Blues found themselves a goal down and a man down.
Hugill restored his side's lead after he swept home Horgan's low cross which evaded the Blues backline.
Thirty seconds later and it went from bad to worse for Zola's side when Gardner picked up his second yellow of the night for a late tackle on Cunningham.
A very frustrating night for Blues at Deepdale. After a promising second-half, the game was ultimately decided in the 78th minute which saw Hugill's winner and the dismissal of the Blues midfielder.