Brentford 1-0 Preston North End: Ollie Watkins hits winner as Bees close gap on Championship leaders

Ollie Watkins has now scored 25 goals in 44 Championship appearances this season

Brentford moved one point behind second-placed West Bromwich Albion in the Championship table after a narrow win over Preston North End at Griffin Park.

Ollie Watkins’ early goal, his 25th of the season, proved enough to give the Bees their eighth straight victory and keep the pressure on the Baggies in the race for automatic promotion.

Home goalkeeper David Raya made a fine save to keep out a Darnell Fisher free-kick, while Said Benrahma shot narrowly wide for the west Londoners after the break.

Preston threatened in the second half but defeat all but ends their hopes of a place in the play-offs, with the Lilywhites five points off the top six with two games of the campaign remaining.

Bees resist North End challenge

Brentford’s front three of Watkins, Benrahma and Bryan Mbeumo had scored 56 goals between them this season heading into the game – as many as the whole Preston squad had managed in the league.

Watkins opened the scoring in the fourth minute, to become the Championship’s outright top scorer, latching onto a clever dinked through ball from Emiliano Marcondes and sending a first-time half-volley flashing past keeper Declan Rudd.

Raya raced off his line to foil an attempt from Tom Barkhuizen, and the Spanish keeper was at full stretch to palm away Fisher’s side-footed free-kick from 25 yards out.

Benrahma almost made it 2-0 just before half-time with a powerful shot from inside the box, but Rudd saved.

The Bees defence stood firm as Preston came into the game in the second half and probed in search of an equaliser, with Watkins making a vital defensive clearance following a set-piece.

A run of one win in 10 games stretching back to February has seen North End slide down the table and out of contention for a place in the play-offs.

Bees keep up heat on West Brom

Brentford have won all seven games since the restart in June and their winning streak – their best-ever run in the second tier – began with a 5-0 demolition of Sheffield Wednesday on 7 March.

Thomas Frank’s Bees beat West Brom in their second game back, and the Baggies know they have little margin for error following a goalless draw with Fulham on Tuesday.

Brentford are also three points behind Championship leaders Leeds, although the Whites have a game in hand against bottom club Barnsley on Thursday (17:00 BST).

Albion go to struggling Huddersfield Town on Friday, while, on Saturday, Brentford travel to a Stoke City side who are yet to secure their own survival.

The Bees have not played in the top flight since 1946-47 but even if they do miss out on a top-two finish they will prove a threat to any side in the play-offs, given their fine form since the resumption and the potency of their forward line.