Town suffered defeat on the road at Preston in a game they largely dominated. Nahki Wells gave them the opener but Paul Gallagher and Alan Browne both scored late on to give Preston the win.
Town started brightly dominating the majority of the opening exchanges. One free-flowing passing move by Town reached Nahki Wells on the edge of the area and his reverse through ball was met by an onrushing Harry Bunn but his shot from the left was straight at Anders Lindegaard in the Preston goal.
A foul on Joe Lolley on the edge of the Preston area gave Town a free kick in a dangerous position that was duly sent well over the crossbar by Jamie Paterson.
A counter attack presented Town with an excellent chance. After some good pressing, Town won the ball midway inside their own half as Jamie Paterson brought the ball forward and played it to Joe Lolley on the right; he tried to take on the defender but was forced wide and unable to get the ball back to the unmarked Jamie Paterson in the area as the ball was ushered out for a Preston throw.
Joel Lynch, on his 300th senior appearance, was next to come close for Town as he hit a thunderous strike from over 30 yards out that rattled the crossbar and left Lindegaard rooted to the spot.
Preston fought their way back into the first half with a flurry of whipped free kicks that were duly dealt with by the Town defence.
Philip Billing was pulling the strings in the Town midfield and was played through the Preston backline on the left by Jamie Paterson; he cut the ball back to Nahki Wells on the six-yard box but Lindegaard again saved his deflected left footed shot.
Ex-Town player and Academy product Tom Clarke in the Preston defence made a tackle on Wells that ricocheted in behind the Preston backline that Jamie Paterson latched onto through on goal but his shot on the angle was blocked well by the Preston keeper. Preston fans booed the refereeing decision as they felt Paterson was offside but the referee made the correct call as Clarke had played the ball.
Town went into half time with 70% of the possession and looking the stronger team, all be it not causing too much difficulty for Lindegaard in the Preston goal.
The second half began with Town once again on the front foot as Nahki Wells picked up the ball midway inside the Preston half beating his man with an excellent piece of skill and breaking through on goal - but his left footed strike from the centre was straight at the keeper.
The midfield was closing down the Preston side excellently and on one occasion Harry Bunn stole the ball from former Town full-back Calum Woods. He dribbled the ball 50 yards before finding his attempted through ball cut out by the Preston defence.
Billing was again at the heart of a Town attack as he burst through the midfield and found Nahki Wells who in turn played the ball left to Tommy Smith, but his shot was flashed across the face of goal narrowly missing the far post.
Simon Grayson made a double change on the 58th minute as he introduced John Welsh and Daniel Johnson in an attempt to get back in the game largely dominated by Town.
Another excellent chance fell for Town as Paterson broke in the middle and set Joe Lolley through on goal; his left footed shot was saved by the Preston goalkeeper and the rebound fell to Paterson, who was also denied at point blank range.
Town had some excellent chances but lacked that clinical edge; Karim Matmour was introduced for Joe Lolley on 66’ in an attempt to find the opener.
The breakthrough finally came on the 80th minute through Nahki Wells; the ball was worked into the box from the right and Wells latched onto it and slid the ball under the keeper to give Town the goal advantage.
Town’s opener was soon cancelled out as Preston equalised following a deep corner on the left which found an unmarked Paul Gallagher, whose first time left footed shot was deflected past Jed Steer off Joel Lynch to give Preston the equaliser.
The action continued into the closing stages as Wells beat his man and hit a rasping strike from 25 yards that narrowly missed the post nearly giving Town that late winner.
Preston got the winner in injury time as Alan Browne powerfully headed in a cross from the right; Jed Steer managed to get a hand to it but couldn’t keep out his effort from Woods’ cross.
There was more late drama as a corner that Jed Steer was up for found Jonathan Hogg at the back post but his volley was ruled not to have crossed the line and the game ended in defeat for Town.
Town’s Team (4-2-3-1):
Jed Steer, James Husband, Joel Lynch (C), Martin Cranie, Tommy Smith;, Philip Billing, Jonathan Hogg; Harry Bunn (Elvis Manu 78’), Jamie Paterson (William Boyle 90’), Joe Lolley (Karim Matmour 66’); Nahki Wells
Joe Murphy, Jason Davidson, Dean Whitehead, Kyle Dempsey