Adam Lord takes a look at Preston North End’s 2-0 win at Queens Park Rangers on Saturday.
Welsh is PNE’s chief destroyer
PNE had looked a little light in the middle of the park in the opening stages of the season with fans wanting more bite. They got that in the form of John Welsh on Saturday, the popular midfielder having not even appeared on a Championship bench this season before being handed a start at Loftus Road. Welsh didn’t disappoint with some crunching challenges right from the off, some legal and some less so. He was at the centre of what was an excellent away defensive display from North End who rarely looked troubled by what was in truth a poor QPR side who only posed a threat after the second-half introduction of Conor Washington. Welsh probably just pips Tommy Spurr and Callum Robinson to the man of the match honours on a day where all the PNE players put in a shift for the shirt.
Tommy Spurr makes a fine left wing back
Tommy Spurr had been made to wait for his Preston debut. On Saturday he was employed as a left wing back, rather than Greg Cunningham, when many thought he might play on the left side of three centre backs. Despite joking about what hard work the position was in pre-season the former Blackburn man covered plenty of ground down the left hand side. His delivery was good too, a half-punch clear from Alex Smithies being the first phase of North End’s opening goal on Saturday. It didn’t get much of an outing but there was also a sign of how his long throw can bring a different dimension when required.
North End needed a break - and they got one
At Thursday’s pre-match press conference Jermaine Beckford was asked if he thought PNE needed a break to get their season up and running. A goal going in off someone’s back maybe? Having seen a goal wrongly chalked off against Fulham the front man conceded that might be the case. If Grayson’s side needed a bounce to go their way they certainly got it at Loftus Road, Paul Gallagher hammering a half volley at Beckford with the ball deflecting into the net to open the scoring. Not that North End had been nervy in the early stages but it certainly loosened them up from there on in. After a couple of near misses and hard luck tales, PNE are off and running.
Just because team looks set up not to be beaten doesn’t mean there’s no attacking threat
In many ways Saturday was the perfect away performance. Defensively sound, North End were rarely troubled but they also posed a real threat on the break as Robinson partnered Beckford up front. The former Aston Villa man is going from strength and seemed to relish this new role as an out and out striker in a front two. Beckford for his part gave a reminder of his undoubted quality and experience as he led the line with aplomb. They were supported well as Daniel Johnson returned to form, arguably freed up by having Welsh playing behind him, while Spurr and Chris Humphrey were always an outlet down the flanks. It was a case of back to the future for North End as they returned to what helped them to an 11th-placed finish last season.
It’s going to be an up and down season
After three defeats to open the campaign most North End fans headed down to QPR not expecting too much. “I’d snap your hand off for a 0-0” was the general consensus as fans disembarked the train at London Euston. But as Grayson’s men found their feet in style it was a timely reminder that the Championship is the most difficult of leagues to predict. More of the same at Ipswich next weekend? Who knows!