Osmajic hat-trick inspires Preston revival

Milutin Osmajic came off the bench to score a hat-trick in the space of eight minutes as play-off chasing Preston came from behind to beat Huddersfield 4-1 in the Championship.

Josh Koroma fired the relegation-battling Terriers in front late in the first half but the tide turned after the break after as Will Keane levelled from the penalty spot in the 53rd minute.

Osmajic then entered the fray with a stunning cameo, putting Preston in front in the 84th minute before scoring two more, the last of them in the first minute of time added on.

The Montenegrin had only scored once since November coming into the night but his match-winning contribution helped keep alive Preston’s hopes of making the play-offs, with victory leaving them five points off sixth place with five games to play.

But for Huddersfield, defeat leaves them outside the bottom three on goal difference alone.

The Terriers had been the better side for much of the first half as Sorba Thomas and Delano Burgzorg provided a constant threat, with Preston struggling to get out of their own half.

Huddersfield’s industry was rewarded just before the break. Burgzorg ran on to a through ball from Ben Wiles, outmuscling Ali McCann to win possession and then keeping the ball in on the byline to pull it back.

Wiles’ shot was blocked but the ball fell for Koroma who took a touch before lashing a shot across goal.

There were boos from the home fans at the half-time whistle but it took only six minutes of the second half for the mood to change. Alex Matos took a loose touch in the Huddersfield box and, in his bid to make amends, the Chelsea loanee bundled into Keane.

Matos saw yellow, and Keane stepped up to send Lee Nicholls the wrong way.

Huddersfield boss Andre Breitenreiter replaced Matos with Rhys Healey – who got the stoppage-time winner against Millwall at the weekend – but Preston still looked the more likely scorers, with Duane Holmes wriggling through the box before testing Nicholls with a powerful shot.

Osmajic’s first contribution after coming on was to appeal for a penalty. He was initially slow to react to a through ball but then barged Brodie Spencer off it before dropping to the deck, with referee Lewis Smith unimpressed.

But five minutes later he was celebrating his first goal, meeting Thomas’ cross from the right at the near post.

The Preston fans had not returned to their seats before he got another, racing on to Alan Browne’s pass to slot the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.

And, as the game moved into six minutes of time added on, he added a final flourish, beating Spencer to get a toe on to Mads Frokjaer-Jensen’s low ball from the right.

The managers

Preston’s Ryan Lowe:

“It’s just pure class and he’s got that in him [Osmajic]. It’s been tough for him, he’s been in and out of the team at certain times…That’s his real hunger and desire to perform for the football club and for his team-mates and he takes all the credit for that.

“The first half wasn’t us, we weren’t at the races. We got them in at half-time and told them they need to be better. I had faith the lads could come out and perform. We changed one or two things, gave them a bit of information and told them they needed to raise it 20 per cent.

“The penalty gave us a bit of a life line to get back in and then there was only one team going to win it.

“It [Saturday’s game vs Norwich] is massively important. I’m not going to play it down. Who knows? It might be the biggest one so far. It’s out of our hands what other teams do points-wise. I just want us to stay in the mix. If we can keep climbing up, with five games to go, who knows?”

Huddersfield’s Andre Breitenreiter:

“When you defend like we did in the second half you cannot get some points. It was terrible, it was poor, too many ball losses.

“We played a really good first half but we missed the final pass to score more goals, we had really good opportunities to score two or three goals and we didn’t do that…

“I cannot tell you my opinion (on the penalty decision) because I didn’t see the clip. But the goal changed everything. Then we have to speak about our own performance and the performance was not good enough.

“After 1-1 there were too many ball losses, we didn’t play as a team, we had bad body language. It was a different game and it was not acceptable for me.”

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