A heart-breaking afternoon for Blues.BCFC
Sean Maguire headed in from a corner in the fourth minute of added-time to condemn Garry Monk’s side to defeat.
It was a fourth straight loss for Blues but in no respect did they merit what happened in that crazy finale.
They took the game to the country’s in-form side, created chances and – quite simply – outplayed the Lilywhites.
So it was an awful, frustrating moment to take when Maguire netted. Blues gave absolutely everything and were rewarded with nothing.
Blues made a promising start at a rain-soaked Deepdale, setting the tone for an absorbing first-half which should have seen them at least two goals to the good.
In the 15th minute the first shot in anger came from Connor Mahoney, who received a ball on the right and cut back inside Andrew Hughes.
He angled a low drive towards the far post from just outside the box, Che Adams got a little touch on the attempt, and the ball whizzed just wide.
Then, from a deep kick by Lee Camp, the ball bounced in behind the Preston backline as Lukas Jutkiewicz caused trouble in the air.
Adam was there and tried to turn it past the oncoming Declan Rudd from around 10 yards but his effort went into the ‘keeper’s legs – a big chance.
Next, as Blues continued to pile on pressure, from the second phase at a corner Jacques Maghoma cracked a fierce shot on target from the left angle of the box and Rudd, parried behind, using both hands up as a barrier in front of his face.
The opening 30 minutes was dominated by Blues, whose drive and eagerness looked to have caught their hosts cold.
A series of corners and free-kicks were forced and Preston had to dig in to stem a blue tide.
Preston appealed for a penalty as Ben Pearson drove into the box on the right-hand side and Kristian Pedersen took a swipe at the ball as it reared up amid frantic scenes after the home side kept things alive from a free-kick.
Pearson, in fact, was lucky to stay on the pitch as after a 10th minute booking he three times caught Blues players late in the tackle. The referee spoke to him, presumably giving the midfielder a warning. But he carried on regardless and got away with a cynical trip on Mahoney later on, the official quite simply losing his nerve.
It was an afternoon when the slippy pitch and rain made it a testing contest – and Blues were not yielding one inch, they were ferocious in the opening half and the better attacking force.
It would have been harsh, just minutes before the break, had Blues gone behind from a left wing Preston corner.
The ball bounced around in the middle of the box and it came invitingly to Hughes, who sidefooted it firmly at goal.
Blues players flung themselves in the way and it was Jutkiewicz who made a crucial block, with Pedersen clearing up behind him as the ball, with the sting taken out, spun out to the left.
Yet, in the 44th minute, Blues display should have yielded the breakthrough after Maghoma – who was such a danger – combined with Adams brilliantly on the left of the area.
Adams nudged the ball behind him to invite Maghoma to skip inside beyond a defender, and everything opened up for the winger; unfortunately he whipped his right foot shot past the far post from 12 yards. It was another huge opportunity for Blues.
Half-time: Preston 0 Blues 0
Some great work by Mahoney, penned in near the corner flag, resulted in Blues first chance of the second period.
He swivelled round Hughes and sent over a dangerous low cross that was miscued by Jordan Storey, facing his own goal. The slice looped up and out to Maikel Kieftenbeld, who was running in by the far post, and he had a go instantly, with a left foot volley, and the ball flew into the sidenetting.
Blues determined play and sheer desire in midfield – Kieftenbeld was outstanding - ensured Preston couldn’t play through the thirds, as they would have preferred, and it often forced them into hopeful long balls.
As the game approached the hour mark, Blues were exerting all the control again and it forced Preston into their first change, Callum Robinson coming on.
From a break down the left, with Adams and Maghoma linking up, the ball was sent over to Kieftenbeld, just inside the area; he moved and created space before letting fly and the ball deflected off Robinson’s shins for another Blues corner.
Monk’s men continued to knock on the door as Preston ended Hughes torrid afternoon by sending on Josh Earl to left-back.
In the 77th minute, from a fired in free-kick on the right by Mahoney (Pearson should have been red-carded for yet another foul), the ball ricocheted around into the thick of the area and Rudd saved, then grabbed the ball again as Jutkiewicz tried to stab it goalwards from a grounded position. Another close shave for Preston.
Jota replaced Mahoney, who had given everything and played very well, with 11 minutes to go.
Preston came on strong at Blues as time ebbed away and nerves and tiredness kicked in.
But still Blues weren’t done: they kept on pressing and probing away, as well as ensuring their own shape and solidity.
And then came another pivotal moment when Adams had a chance after a poor Rudd clearance rebound back into him, via Jutkiewicz's instant pass, into the middle of the area. Preston escaped as Ben Davies stuck out his hand to dab the ball as Adams tried to veer wider beyond the'keeper to gain a good shooting angle - referee Scott Duncan didn't seem to notice what should have been an infringement for a penalty.
It looked that Blues would at least get a point, but disaster came came 15 or so seconds from the end, deep in added-time.
Preston suddenly burst through the middle from nowhere on the counter attack as Blues went for a winner, and the defence was exposed with last man Wes Harding trying to cover two men.
Kieftenbeld sprinted back furiously to come round the blindside and make a brilliant saving tackle on Daniel Johnson as he prepared to shoot at goal, with just Camp to beat.
But from the subsequent left wing corner Maguire got above a crowd of bodies and headed the ball firmly down into the back of the net from the edge of the six-yard box. Unbelievable.
The goal came at the clock ticked towards the 94th minute.
It was the cruelest of ends to a performance that actually should have brought nothing more than an away victory.
Preston (4-2-3-1): Rudd, Fisher, Pearson, Davies, Johnson, Storey, Hughes (Earl 70), Potts (Robinson 59), Stockley (Barker 74), Maguire, Nmecha. Subs not used: Crowe, Ledson Moult, Rafferty.
Goal: Maguire (90+4)
Booked: Pearson (10), Fisher (90+1), Davies (86)
Blues (4-4-2): Camp, Harding, Pedersen, Dean, Morrison, Maghoma, Kieftenbeld, Gary Gardner, Mahoney (Jota 79), Jutkiewicz, Adams. Subs not used: Trueman, Craig Gardner, Mrabti, Davis, Dacres-Cogley.
Booked: Kieftenbeld (64), Maghoma (84), Gary Gardner (90+6)
Referee: S Duncan
Attendance: 17,509 (away 5,556)