Walsall boss Dean Smith refused to make a scapegoat of his defence after a comedy own goal cost them a share of the spoils in a 2-1 defeat at Preston North End.

Paul Downing's back pass was missed by goalkeeper Richard O'Donnell in the third minute and the stopper could not retrieve the ball before it crossed the line.

The Saddlers conjured an equaliser moments later when Sam Mantom fired home on the rebound but Bailey Wright headed in what proved to be the winner for the hosts just before the half-hour mark.

Mantom was given his marching orders late on for a high challenge on Joe Garner and Smith was left to rue what might have been for his side.

"We gave them a goal and reacted really well and got a goal back. Then a soft a free-kick led to their second goal which we felt was offside as well," he said.

"The pitch looked really bobbly and the lads complained about it at the start of the game.

"The opening goal was just a miscommunication and he (Downing) has passed it back thinking he (O'Donnell) was there and he wasn't. It was a poor mistake. But the reaction was fantastic and we were well in the game then.

"Sam's was a good tackle and he got the ball first. It was a strange decision. We're very disappointed, we know what type of lad Sam is and he's not one you would expect to get a red card. We will appeal it.

"It's a tough enough place to come anyway but there were certainly some strange decisions out there."

Meanwhile, victory for Preston extends their unbeaten run at home in the league to six matches but boss Simon Grayson has demanded even more from his squad.

"We had a poor period just after we got the goal, but to be fair to Walsall you know what you're going to get from them," he said.

"We didn't talk to each other enough but the players grasped it and we had some good opportunities in the second half, their 'keeper made some real good saves from our front two, who were a threat.

"It would have been a huge disappointment if we'd not won the game but we have and that's all that matters at this stage of the season."

On the red card, Grayson admitted luck might just have been on their side this time at Deepdale.

"The ball's just bounced and Joe's got it away," he added.

"The lad's probably caught him halfway up his shin. I've seen them given as red. I've seen them given as yellow.

"We've had decisions with yellow and red cards go against us so you're not going to complain too much."