Report: Preston 1 Rovers 2
Paul Lambert's reign as Rovers manager got off to a winning start with a hard-fought victory over Preston North End at Deepdale.
In front of some 5500 visiting supporters, a Jordan Pickford own goal on the half hour put Rovers in front before Jordan Rhodes doubled the advantage from the penalty spot early in the second half after Chris Taylor had been fouled.
Former Ewood starlet Joe Garner reduced the deficit 23 minutes from time, but as Bailey Wright saw red in the closing stages for Preston, Rovers saw out the game to claim all three points.
For his first game in charge, new boss Paul Lambert made just the one change from the side that faced Brentford a fortnight ago as he recalled Adam Henley with Chris Taylor dropping to the bench. That meant Ben Marshall moved to right wing as Henley slotted in at right back.
Yet aside from the lively atmosphere created in no small part by the 5500 Rovers fans, it was a largely uneventful opening ten minutes. The first chance of note coming from former Rover Paul Gallagher who let fly from distance forcing Jason Steele to save low to his left.
A typically tense and feisty local derby, it was the home side who were seeing more of the ball, Grant Hanley had to clear a dangerous centre from Adam Reach, whilst a Gallagher cross required safe hands from Steele.
Rovers' first opportunity came at the midway point of the half with Shane Duffy seeing his header from a Craig Conway corner deflect over the bar. The Irishman would get a cleaner connection with the following delivery, but his effort drifted wide.
Despite Rovers being down to ten men as Tom Lawrence received treatment off the pitch, it was the team in red who grabbed the opening goal on 31 minutes.
Corry Evans, who has a habit of scoring against Lancashire rivals, rifled a shot in from outside the area that smacked the upright, Duffy pounced on the rebound only to see his shot cleared off the line by Gallagher before it deflected off North End keeper Jordan Pickford and rolled into the back of the net.
In the aftermath of Rovers' grabbing the opener, Lawrence was unable to continue, he was replaced by Taylor who slotted in behind Jordan Rhodes up front.
The home side pressed for an equaliser in the closing stages of the first half, the closest being a Daniel Johnson free-kick that curled just beyond the far post to ensure Rovers held the advantage.
Preston made a change at the break with Tom Clarke replacing Calum Woods as both sides exchanged chances as the second half got underway.
Adam Reach saw a shot kept out by Steele at one end, whilst Conway fired over the angle at the other.
But quick thinking from a throw-in by Rovers would lead to them doubling their advantage on 52 minutes.
Marshall did brilliantly on the far side to thread the ball through to Chris Taylor and he raced into the penalty box before being caught late by Paul Huntington.
Referee Mike Dean pointed to the spot, and in front the vociferous travelling support, Jordan Rhodes cooly slotted home for goal number 9 for the season.
Preston looked to quickly pull a goal back as Reach fizzed a ball into the box, Joe Garner looked to strike acrobatically on the volley but it looped high and wide.
Needing a route back into the game, Simon Grayson then made a double change on 64 with forwards Stevie May and Will Keane replacing Eoin Doyle and Daniel Johnson, but it was former Academy man Garner who would strike three minutes later.
A ball into the area was only half cleared by Rovers and whilst May couldn't connect with his effort, the ball landed for Garner and he swept home from 12-yards.
Paul Lambert responded by sending on Danny Guthrie for the hard-working Conway. With Marshall moving to the left and Taylor switching to the right.
Immediately Marshall impressed, exchanging passes with Markus Olsson before his cross found the Swede, but his shot just curled beyond the far post.
Rovers had to live on their nerves at times in the closing stages as the Lilywhites threw everything forward, but the centre-half pairing of Hanley and Duffy were outstanding as they cleared their lines time after time.
But with the home side pushing everyone forward there were opportunities on the counter. After one such break, Guthrie raced forward from inside his own half, but his eventual shot deflected kindly into the arms of Pickford.
As five additional minutes were shown Preston would have to play them out a man shy as Bailey Wright saw red for a second bookable offence, but Paul Lambert's side saw out the remaining minutes to make it a successful first game in charge for the manager.
PRESTON: Pickford, Woods (sub Clarke 46 mins), Wright, Huntington, Cunningham, Reach, Browne, Johnson (sub Keane 64 mins), Gallagher (c), Garner, Doyle (sub May 64 mins).
Subs not used: Kirkland (GK), Vermijl, Welsh, Hugill.
Goals: Garner 67 mins.
Booked: Huntington, Garner, Wright.
ROVERS: Steele, Henley, Duffy, Hanley (c), Olsson, Marshall, Evans, Akpan, Conway (sub Guthrie 74 mins), Lawrence (sub Taylor 33 mins), Rhodes (sub Koita 82 mins).
Subs not used: Raya (GK), Spurr, Kilgallon, Delfouneso.
Goals: Pickford (OG) 31 mins, Rhodes (pen) 52 mins.
Booked: Evans, Koita.
Attendance: 19,852 (including 5,486 Rovers fans).