Match ends, Preston North End 1, Walsall 0.
Preston closed the gap on the automatic promotion places with a win over Walsall, their fourth straight League One victory without conceding a goal.
The game's only goal came on 19 minutes when Chris Humphrey got free down the right, pulling back for Daniel Johnson to smash in his second goal in a week.
After the break Paul Gallagher rattled the bar with a long-range drive, before Tom Clarke hit the post with a header.
Goalkeeper Sam Johnstone kept out a corner to secure Preston's victory.
|North End finally beat the Saddlers|
|Walsall had been unbeaten in this season's three previous meetings with Preston. Having won 3-1 at Bescot in September, they earned another two-goal victory in last month's Johnstone's Paint Trophy Area Final first leg against Preston at Deepdale. They then shared a goalless draw in the second leg to reach Wembley for the first time in their 127-year history.|
The Lilywhites were out of the blocks quickly, Walsall goalkeeper Richard O'Donnell being forced into smart early saves from Gallagher's volley and Joe Garner's header.
Walsall, who were missing centre-half Paul Downing (thigh strain) and striker Tom Bradshaw (flu), had plenty of possession.
But their eight-game unbeaten away record came to an end, while North End move to within three points of second place with a game in hand.
Walsall manager Dean Smith told BBC WM 95.6:
"I feel aggrieved. The goal that eventually beat us should never have stood. There was a clear foul on Rico Henry in the build-up and now the lad is in hospital awaiting an x-ray after his shoulder popped out.
"We started slowly and were poor on the ball during the first half. It's not like us to take so long to get going, but we improved after the break and controlled it.
"It's disappointing. There were too many five out of ten performances. Not enough seven and eights. But there were positives to take. Romaine Sawyers did well when he came on and showed me how much he wants to be out there playing."
- 5ClarkeSubstituted forWisemanat 56'minutes
- 14GarnerSubstituted forDaviesat 90+2'minutes
- 27RobinsonSubstituted forKilkennyat 79'minutes
- 25HenrySubstituted forTaylorat 24'minutes
- 24GrimesSubstituted forSawyersat 60'minutes
- 27FordeSubstituted forBaxendaleat 76'minutes
- Darren Drysdale
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Preston North End 1, Walsall 0.
Chris Humphrey (Preston North End) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by James Chambers (Walsall).
Attempt saved. James O'Connor (Walsall) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.
Corner, Walsall. Conceded by Scott Wiseman.
Substitution, Preston North End. Kevin Davies replaces Joe Garner.
Corner, Preston North End. Conceded by Jordan Cook.
Attempt missed. Michael Cain (Walsall) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the left.
Attempt blocked. Jordan Cook (Walsall) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Hand ball by Joe Garner (Preston North End).
Attempt missed. Paul Gallagher (Preston North End) header from the centre of the box misses to the left.
Substitution, Preston North End. Neil Kilkenny replaces Callum Robinson.
Attempt missed. Michael Cain (Walsall) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left.
Substitution, Walsall. James Baxendale replaces Anthony Forde.
Foul by Joe Garner (Preston North End).
James Chambers (Walsall) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt missed. Jordy Hiwula-Mayifuila (Walsall) header from the centre of the box misses to the right.
Attempt saved. Callum Robinson (Preston North End) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner.
Attempt saved. Anthony Forde (Walsall) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.