Dave Seddon’s match verdict: Blackburn 1, Preston 2

Preston North End's Jordan Hugill scores his side's second goal to make the score 2-1 against Blackburn
Preston North End's Jordan Hugill scores his side's second goal to make the score 2-1 against Blackburn
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Jordan Hugill enjoyed a Roy of the Rovers moment on the day Preston got the better of Blackburn at Ewood Park for the first time in 37 years.

Four years ago the striker was serving behind a bar to make ends meet, his career on hold while he recovered from a serious knee injury.

Blackburn Rovers' Shane Duffy dives along the goal-line as he blocks a shot at goal from Preston North End's Jordan Hugill - giving away a penalty and earning himself a red card

Blackburn Rovers' Shane Duffy dives along the goal-line as he blocks a shot at goal from Preston North End's Jordan Hugill - giving away a penalty and earning himself a red card

Wind the clock forward to Saturday afternoon and Hugill was North End’s match winner with a super finish from an equally good Paul Gallagher cross.

From pulling pints to classy shots – serving beer must have felt a lifetime ago as his volley hit the back of the net to the delight of 7,000 travelling Prestonians.

Hugill’s goal a couple of minutes before half-time was the last big talking point of a frantic first period.

A stirring derby contest had served up a little bit of everything, the Lilywhites falling behind during a strong opening from Rovers.

Preston North End's Joe Garner scores his side's equalising goal to make the score 1-1against Blackburn

Preston North End's Joe Garner scores his side's equalising goal to make the score 1-1against Blackburn

Back they came to level from the penalty spot after Shane Duffy had produced a fine one-handed save on the line to keep out a Hugill shot.

The problem for the hosts was that skipper Duffy was one of their centre-backs and not the goalkeeper.

Once he was shown the inevitable red card, 10-man Rovers were punished again as Joe Garner converted from the spot.

Cue Hugill’s big moment, cushioning home a volley with his out-stretched right boot and celebrating in the one-armed style of Alan Shearer who was once of the Blackburn parish.

The only thing missing from the script was that it did not come at the Darwen End where the noisy away fans were massed.

In the second half, PNE used the extra man pretty well and had three or four good chances to put the game out of Rovers’ sight.

There were moments when such wastefulness might have bitten them on the backside as the home side mounted late pressure.

But hold on they did for a third away derby success in four months and the much coveted victory on Rovers soil which has evaded them since 1979.

It was not a surprise to see Hugill grinning from ear to ear when he arrived in Ewood’s plush media suite post-match – a far cry from his non-league days in North Yorkshire and Teesside.

“Three or four years ago, I tore my cruciate playing for Whitby,” he said.

“I needed to keep the money coming in so I worked behind a bar most Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

“The bar where I worked was one of the better ones in Middlesbrough town centre.

“Once I started playing again after the injury, I got my chance at Port Vale and then I got the move here.

“Things are working out well and to score the goal was a brilliant feeling.

“It was a great day for us to get the two goals and come back from being behind.

“To hold out for the win was brilliant and I thought we deserved it.”

If Carlsberg did away days, this would probably be it for Preston fans.

The biggest away support for a league game in almost 16 years made the short trip east along the M65 and the big numbers were rewarded with a big victory.

North End’s last success in these parts had come in the era of perms and shiny adidas kits, March 24, 1979, to be exact.

They had not fared much better since then on home turf either, a 1-0 victory in the League Cup in 1997 as good as it got, that coming with Preston trailing 6-0 to Rovers from the first leg.

So this weekend’s events were long overdue and the win was one to savour.

As far as the league table is concerned, victory allowed Preston to pull 10 points clear of Rovers and avenged defeat in November’s reverse game.

Bragging rights are for the time being with North End’s faithful, those no doubt to be enjoyed these next few weeks and months.

While Garner and Hugill were the PNE names on the scoresheet, the heartbeat of this win was Gallagher.

His cross for the winner was just one example of how well he used the ball.

In the corresponding game at Deepdale, Gallagher appeared to get bogged down in the occasion of facing his home-town club.

He was at the other end of the spectrum this time and revelled in the ‘quarter-back’ type role deep in midfield.

Gallagher had the space to get on the ball, pinging and spraying it around with some admirably accuracy.

He had the energetic Alan Browne on one side of him, the tenacity of Ben Pearson to the other.

They covered the yards and put in the challenges, in doing so allowing Gallagher to get on the ball and dictate.

That engine room formed part of a 3-5-2 system, one which Simon Grayson stuck with from start to finish.

Tom Clarke, Bailey Wright and Greg Cunningham were the three central defenders, with Calum Woods and Adam Reach in the wing-back roles.

Garner and Hugill were in tandem up front, a pairing which Grayson only finally decided to run with on the morning of the contest.

In the build-up, eyes had been focused on Eoin Doyle or even Jermaine Beckford as company for Garner.

Yet Hugill had started the previous two, scoring in last month’s win at Bolton, so he could justify holding on to his place.

The opening few minutes of the clash was no barometer of what was to follow.

Rovers were brighter and stronger, bullying North End almost, their 13th minute opener certainly going with the run of the early play.

There had already been a close call for the visitors when Tony Watt’s goalbound shot was blocked by Clarke inside the six-yard box.

Watt popped his groin in the act of shooting and limped off to be replaced by Simeon Jackson – himself to be subbed after the red card.

The Rovers goal was a poor one to give away, Hope Akpan rising to meet a corner from Elliott Bennett.

His header came back off the bar and fell to the feet of Elliott WARD 10 yards out, the one-time Preston loan player driving a first-time shot into the bottom corner.

PNE did not have to chase things for too long, drawing level in the 24th minute.

When Browne’s low shot from the edge of the box was pushed out by keeper Jason Steele, Hugill was the first to the rebound and stab the ball goalwards.

Duffy dived to block with his arm on the line, referee Eddie Ilderton pointing to the spot and pulling out red.

The penalty was driven hard and low into the corner by GARNER.

With half-time nearing, the goal which proved to be the winner arrived.

Garner was crowded out on the edge of the box, the ball breaking to Gallagher who lifted a cross to the back post which HUGILL struck ever so sweetly on the volley.

Pearson, Daniel Johnson and Beckford, had chances to finish the game as a contest in the second half.

In the end, the two in the first period were enough.