Bristol City boss Dean Holden felt his side were beaten by a “soft” penalty as they went down to a 1-0 Championship defeat at Preston.
The decisive moment of a hard-fought contest came in the 21st minute when referee Geoff Eltringham pointed to the spot after Scott Sinclair appeared to be tripped by Taylor Moore.
Daniel Johnson coolly converted the spot-kick and, despite the best efforts of substitute Antoine Semenyo, who forced Declan Rudd into several excellent stops, the visitors could not find a response as they slipped to a third straight defeat.
“It looked a soft one,” Holden said of the penalty.
“I spoke to the referee about it and he just said, ‘If I got it wrong I apologise’.
“Referees are human beings like the rest of us, though, and everyone makes mistakes.
“There wasn’t a lot between the two sides in the first half. We came flying out of the traps in the second half, and we kept at it for the whole of the second half.
“Declan Rudd made a couple of really good saves and they were hanging on. We created enough chances on the night, but it’s been disappointing of course.
“Both teams looked a bit fragile I thought. Early in the game it was a bit like a boxing match. It was like two fighters feeling each other out.
“We are on a tricky run, three defeats on the spin isn’t great I know. I’m not going to make any excuses, though.
“You can’t take 10 first-team players out of a squad and not see an impact. Again, though, I’ve never made any excuses in all the time I’ve been here, so I won’t be starting now.
“We’ve just got to stick together, keep working hard, and maintain that belief.”
The result maintained Preston’s excellent recent record over City, having not lost to them in almost a decade, and the hosts were good value for their first-half lead, with Sinclair passing up a number of chances.
They did have to hold on in the second half, Rudd denying the visitors time and again, but manager Alex Neil was left delighted with a second straight home win.
“I thought we deserved to win,” Neil said.
“In the first half in particular we played some really good stuff and created some good chances.
“We knew it would be a tough game and that Bristol City would bring us a different challenge.
“That’s how it panned out and in the end we did everything required for a team to win a game at this level.
“We moved the ball well throughout and took risks when we needed to. It’s not been an easy season for us, what with injuries and one thing and another, so we needed this result. To get a clean sheet to go with that means it’s been a really good night’s work.
“We probably should have scored more than just the one goal I thought. That was a bit disappointing. We just couldn’t get that second goal that sometimes you need against good opposition at this level.”