An explosive Bonfire Night performance, where we were definitely a part of it at the New York Stadium, has ignited hopes of a push for a play-off place – which would be a remarkable achievement given the budgets and parachute payments of some clubs in our division.
To sit just three points off a play-off place at this stage of the season is a just reward for the endeavours of a hard-working squad and represents a massive turnaround in our fortunes from the slow start to this years campaign. It should also end any doubts in the minds of a small section of fans about Simon Grayson not being the right man for the job at this current moment in time. There was certainly no doubt in the minds of a superb away following who vociferously belted out “Simon Grayson is a White” at the end of the game following this emphatic win. Although Rotherham were bottom of the league, they began well. But their main tactic of bombarding the area with long throws was dealt with comfortably by a resolute Preston North End defence. We came into the game and took a 2-0 lead into the interval with two headed goals, created by my man of the match Aiden McGeady. I feel that there is more to come this season from the Irishman who, in my opinion, has the potential to become a marquee signing as big as a pair of Victorian bloomers. In the second half we opened up the home side’s defence cutting through it like a knife through butter, playing some free-flowing passing football with Daniel Johnson also having an inspirational game. However we did not get the third goal which would have killed the Millers off and they rallied to claw a goal back. We still looked comfortable though and once Marnick Vermijl had restored our two-goal advantage shortly afterwards the outcome was never in doubt.
North End immediately got back on track, after last week’s unlucky defeat, with a quite comprehensive 3-1 win at the New York Stadium. Two first-half goals from Jordan Hugill and Callum Robinson saw PNE in control and although the Millers pulled one back with 20 minutes to go, we sealed victory 10 minutes from time with Marnick Vermijl doing the honours to lift North End into 11th place in the Championship. All three goals were well worked and North End played some very good football at times, albeit against a side struggling at the bottom of the league but who had certainly been fired up by new boss Kenny Jackett. They didn’t have enough to unduly worry North End, though, as the class of McGeady, Johnson and Gallagher proved far too much in the end. It wasn’t an afternoon for the faint-hearted in South Yorkshire with a biting wind blowing through the stadium but the football warmed the hearts of the 1,559 North End fans in a crowd of 10,013. North End took the game to Rotherham right from the off with the 4-4-2 proving very effective, giving Pringle and McGeady plenty of the ball down the flanks. Robinson missed an early chance when he really should have scored. But it wasn’t long before some good work down the left saw Cunningham sweetly cross the ball for Hugill to head home off the inside of the post to give North End the lead. Five minutes later and McGeady was working his magic down the left and put a peach of a cross in for Callum Robinson to score with a header and leave North End very much in the ascendancy. The second half started with the home side trying to give it a go but North End were defending resolutely, with Chris Maxwell looking ever more confident between the sticks. The home side were going a little bit route-one and with 20 minutes to go a ball from the left found the head of Ward, who flicked in a well placed header to bring Rotherham back into the game. North End didn’t look unduly and their reward followed as Daniel Johnson swept the ball across goal to find Vermijl at the back post and it was 3-1 to North End. I think McGeady wins the man of the match, with a special mention for Johnson and the ever improving Hugill and Robinson. A fruitful afternoon for North End which saw us move back into the top half of the Championship.
In a game which could so easily have been a banana skin for North End, we put on a solid, organised and classy display in Yorkshire. Again it was the same team that started, apart from the one forced change with Pearson suspended, meaning McGeady started on his return from injury. Rotherham are already rock bottom and well adrift of teams above them, but you can tell why. Preston took the game by the scruff of the neck from the off and ran the show pretty much all game, some outstanding individual performances from McGeady and Robinson to name a couple, played a huge part in these three points. Words fail with McGeady sometimes, an absolute class act in this league, we’re lucky to have him on our wing. Jordan Hugill continued his good recent form by opening the scoring with a pinpoint header from a Cunningham cross. This is where North End really got going, and five minutes later Robinson doubled the lead – a wonderful piece of skill from McGeady before he delivered for Robinson to finish a simple header. It was a brilliant first-half performance. Things didn’t really change in the second half, Rotherham had maybe a 10-minute spell of pressure in the game and they managed to nick one back through a header from Wood. But overall, it never looked like being anything other than a win for Grayson’s side. This was made totally sure when Marnick Vermijl made it 3-1 when he got on the end of Robinson’s cross at the far post. Three points, three goals and three points off the play-off positions – a sublime performance.