Goal number 13 for the season was far from unlucky for David McGoldrick as his first-half effort gave Sheffield United a 1-0 win at Preston on Saturday, a result that lifted the Blades back into the automatic promotion places in the Championship, after Leeds United lost 1-0 away to Birmingham City.
The goal came after 33 minutes when McGoldrick reacted smartly to tap in after international team-mate John Egan’s looping header had come back off the crossbar.
Defeat was a significant blow for Preston’s play-off ambitions and Alan Browne felt refereeing decisions at key moments went against his side. He said: “I think we definitely deserved at least a point, if not all three. I think there were two decisions that, at this time of the season, you need to go your way and for me, it was blatant but obviously the ref disagreed.”
Like Preston, Nottingham Forest’s play-off hopes are fading after Martin O’Neill’s men lost 2-1 at Rotherham United. “We are in the real business end now and to lose games like this is obviously a setback,” former Ireland boss O’Neill conceded.
In League One, there was no fairytale start to life as full-time manager of Rochdale for Brian Barry-Murphy as the struggling outfit conceded a late goal to lose 2-1 at home to promotion-chasing Sunderland. “The result was harsh on us but the effort of our lads was incredible,” Barry-Murphy said. “It’s always painful to experience defeat but if there’s such a thing as a right way to lose, that was it.”
In League One, James Collins opened the scoring before being later sent off in Luton’s 2-2 draw with Blackpool.
There was just one Irish scorer in League Two, Jamie Devitt scoring after just 31 seconds as Carlisle beat Bury 3-2.
And in the Scottish Premiership, a double from Daryl Horgan inspired Hibernian to a 2-1 derby win over Hearts.