As is the case in life, timing is everything in sport. And with Martin O’Neill set to name his squad today for the crucial World Cup qualifier with Wales on Friday week, Daryl Horgan could scarcely have picked a better time to produce a virtuoso display.
The former Dundalk star made the first goal and scored the second — at the second attempt — as Preston kept Championship play-off hopes alive by beating Reading 3-0 on Saturday.
The 24-year-old has settled in brilliantly since joining Preston, scoring twice and providing three assists in 11 matches since his January arrival.
His efforts surely haven’t gone unnoticed by O’Neill and it would be a surprise if he isn’t the squad for the Wales game.
There was bad news for O’Neill at St James’ Park where Ciaran Clark was forced off injured as leaders Newcastle crashed to a 3-1 home defeat to Fulham.
The former Aston Villa defender will have scans on a knee injury, Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez revealed on Saturday night.
Benitez said: “He got a knock so we withdrew him as a precaution. We don’t know how serious it is yet of course so we will wait and see.”
O’Neill will hope the scan brings good news as he must already plan without Clark’s central defensive partner Shane Duffy. The Brighton man is recovering from surgery on a broken metatarsal.
There was one positive for O’Neill from St James’ Park as Daryl Murphy maintained his recent good form by scoring Newcastle’s consolation.
Elsewhere, a last-gasp equaliser rescued a 1-1 draw for Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich against Barnsley, a result that keeps them seven points clear of the drop zone.
McCarthy admitted the Tractor Boys rode their luck at his old stomping ground.
He said: “It’s the first thing I’ve stolen from here. I was here a long time and never took a paper clip, pen, piece of paper or anything else, but we burgled a point today. Did we deserve it? Did we hell, but I’ll take it.”
In League One, Rory Gaffney struck as Bristol Rovers beat Southend 2-0 while Paddy Madden scored in a vain cause as Scunthorpe surrendered a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 at Gillingham.
In League Two, Eoin Doyle opened the scoring with a header and Michael Doyle put the seal on an emphatic result as promotion-chasing Portsmouth won 4-0 at Colchester.
Plymouth are also firmly on target to go up and a goal from Graham Carey helped them to another three points as the Pilgrims won 2-0 at Mansfield.
Elsewhere, Rhys Murphy was on the mark as Crawley drew 2-2 at Barnet.
In the Scottish Premiership, a goal from Conor Sammon helped Kilmarnock to a 2-1 win at Ross County.
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