Joel Piroe dents Preston’s play-off hopes after mass touchline brawl in Swansea
Joel Piroe scored twice as Swansea beat play-off chasing Preston 4-2 in a bad-tempered Championship clash that involved a mass brawl in the closing stages.
Preston manager Ryan Lowe and Swansea midfielder Joe Allen were both shown straight red cards after a heated confrontation erupted on the touchline with the hosts leading 3-2 five minutes from time.
At least 30 players, substitutes and coaches were involved in scenes that look certain to bring charges from the Football Association.
The mayhem started when Allen – who had been substituted – appeared to be pushed by an angry Lowe in front of the benches.
Players and officials from both clubs joined in and soon referee Oliver Langford had lost complete control.
The official later showed straight red cards to Allen and Lowe and when the game finally restarted, Piroe scored his second of the night and 19th of the season to dent Preston’s play-off hopes.
Having lost at Millwall in their previous game – abruptly ending a run of three successive victories – Preston needed a solid start to steady the ship.
Instead, they conceded after little more than a minute as Piroe struck.
Preston gave the ball away in midfield and were slack in their marking when Joe Allen delivered from the right. Piroe had time to control and hit a measured low drive into the far corner from 12 yards.
It was the Dutchman’s fourth goal in as many games and a harsh welcome back to his former club for Preston goalkeeper Freddie Woodman.
North End enjoyed their share of possession, but were unable to fashion any strikes on goal until the 17th minute when Thomas Cannon fired wide from the edge of the box.
The visitors continued to press and Alvaro Fernandez linked with Daniel Johnson before Fernandez cut inside to unleash a shot that was deflected for a corner.
But as Preston committed players to attack, the more vulnerable they appeared to Swansea’s slick and pacey counters.
From one, Allen set up Piroe on the edge of the box, whose shot was tipped away by Woodman.
Moments later Piroe’s half-volley again tested Woodman’s reactions.
The gaps kept appearing down Preston’s right and they fell 2-0 behind in the 25th minute.
Ryan Manning surged into the visitors’ box and squared the ball to Piroe, whose pass to Allen enabled the former Wales midfielder to turn inside Andrew Hughes and curl the ball inside the far post.
It was Allen’s first goal for the club since he returned from Stoke for a second spell last summer.
Preston’s heads appeared to drop and they conceded a soft third goal just before half-time.
Manning whipped in a free-kick from the right and there was no-one within five yards of Harry Darling as the centre-back nodded home from the edge of the six-yard box.
But they responded at the start of the second half when Swansea went to sleep defending a free-kick and Cannon drove the ball into the roof of the net.
Cannon was then shown a yellow card for diving when he went down in the box as Langford waved away claims for a penalty.
With 19 minutes to go, substitute Troy Parrott gave Preston hope when he got in behind Swansea’s defence and finished emphatically shortly after coming on.
But after the late melee, Piroe had the final say to leave Preston two points off the play-off places with three games to play.
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