sport

Evans rues Garner wonder goal

Rotherham manager Steve Evans claimed it took the "goal of the century" from Preston's Joe Garner to prevent his team from taking a Sky Bet League One play-off semi-final first-leg lead back to South Yorkshire.

The Millers took the lead at Deepdale when Alex Revell ran half the length of the pitch before firing under goalkeeper Declan Rudd to give his side a 21st-minute advantage.

North End were disappointing and uninspiring in the first half as the supporters sounded their disapproval at the half-time whistle.

However, they hit back through Garner's remarkable strike four minutes after the break which meant that, for the third time this season, Simon Grayson's men drew with Evans' charges - this game ending 1-1.

Garner took a cross-field pass on his chest, flicked the ball over Kari Arnason's head and unleashed a first-time volley over goalkeeper Adam Collin to score a marvellous technical goal.

"It has taken the goal of the century to break us," admitted Evans.

"If there is a better goal in the play-offs this year then I'll wake up a chicken. But after that our keeper hasn't got a save to make."

Garner's leveller had lifted Preston temporarily but the visitors had four good chances to grab a winner while their own goalkeeper was untested.

Revell nodded over, Lee Frecklington missed a fantastic one-on-one opportunity, Rob Milsom fired wide and substitute Haris Vuckic's header was tipped over the top by goalkeeper Declan Rudd.

"We caused a good team real problems; when you break down their squad it really is quite scary what they have got," added Evans.

"We go level and if the second leg is like that it will be a fantastic game and now we have the opportunity for our fans to come and make as much noise as them.

"It's an acceptable result, it's not a good result because we usually see that as winning but it is an acceptable one. I don't think it's advantage anyone, it gives us a chance but we know they have some top players. We know it will be extremely tough to beat them."

Preston manager Grayson paid tribute to his top scorer Garner, who has now grabbed 24 goals for the team he supported as a boy.

"The way he controlled it, flicked it over the lad and hit it first time - the keeper didn't have a chance," said Grayson, who is aiming to win promotion through the League One play-offs for a third time.

"It was worthy of winning any game, never mind getting you back into the tie. You can't ask any more from Joe, he's been fantastic all season. He's got the goals and the Player of the Year award and it was a nice moment to see it hit the back of the net which got us going a little bit second half.

"But you know what Rotherham are like, they're not going to lie down and make it easy for us and that was certainly the case."

The hosts were, though, uncharacteristically poor in the first leg of a tie which Evans had claimed Preston were favourites to progress from.

"There's a lot of individuals that will realise they have to play better and they have done and we do believe we probably can't play much worse than that on Thursday night," said Grayson.