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Preston 1 City 3

The road to Wembley just got that little bit shorter.

For the third consecutive time in the seasons FA Cup, we have navigated a potentially tricky tie by edging Preston earlier today at Deepdale.

Ultimately I think we were good value for the win - despite the 'plucky' plaudits being dished out to Preston and a particularly positive factor in our run this season has seen us come from behind on a couple of occasions, something which we haven't been renowned for previously.

Team wise, Isaksson must have been disappointed to have been replaced by Nicky Weaver, and speculation that Sturridge may start was unfounded as Pearce went with the Samaras-Corradi partnersip.

We came out of the blocks quickly in the game with Barton immediately getting into the game but it was Preston who scored first with dangerman David Nugent opening the scoring from a corner which saw a lack of concentration and slow response from the defence following an good save from Weaver.

It could, and should have been 2-0 not too long after as Rickett's was sent through by an excellent ball from McKenna and having held off Distin well hit his shot too close to Weaver.

After this, we took a hold of the game and dominated proceedings at times and enjoyed success down each flank - with Trabelsi seeing much of the ball. Barton and Dabo continued to combine well in midfield but a lack of quality and sharpness up front cost us. Preston saw plenty of the ball too, but like ourselves failed to carve out too many clear chances.

Not too far from the end of the first half we drew level, and it was a good goal to bring us back into the game. A good ball into Corradi saw him hold the ball well, and hit a great shot on the turn which came back off the post - only to fall to Michael Ball, who in an advanced position smashed the ball home off Loneghan's right post.

I thought we took command in the second half, and in the key areas won the vital battles. One thing I have noticed more this season, and credit to Pearce here, is that we are taking a far more patient approach in games and are willing to build an attack as opposed to 'lumping' the ball to the target men.

Stephen Ireland saw more of the ball and his distribution was good, linking with Ball well, whilst Trabelsi continued to attack with purpose, but it still looked as though we would head back to th City of Manchester Stadium but with little over five minutes remaining Samaras hit home to put us in the lead. He didn't get much on the shot, and in doing so probably ensured it went over the 'keeper and in the back of the net over a despairing defender.

And in injury team, the improving Stephen Ireland capped the game off well with a superb volleyed strike from around twenty-five yards out to ice the game and put is into the hat for tomorrow's quarter-final draw.

As for potential opponents? Still a lot up in the air due to a few replays but whoever we draw, I think we go into it in better shape and perhaps more tellingly, a lot more wise and savvy than this time last season when we took on West Ham.

The potential list of quarter-final opponents:

Manchester United/Reading
Arsenal/Blackburn
Middlesbrough/West Brom
Chelsea
Plymouth
Watford
Tottenham

Reports:
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SI.com
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