Sean Gregan’s Exclusive PNE column

Preston North End players celebrate after the final whistle
Preston North End players celebrate after the final whistle
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No one could fail to be impressed by Preston North End’s victory at Norwich – what a great result down in Norfolk.

To win and keep a clean sheet against a Canaries side which was in the Premier League last season, was good going.

Five or six weeks ago, it was doom and gloom at Deepdale, people wanted the manager sacked and they could not get a win.

Things have really swung the other way and now Simon Grayson is walking on water!

Beforehand, I think that most Preston supporters would have been happy with a draw at Carrow Road.

So to come away with a win which stretches the unbeaten run to seven games, was really pleasing.

Alex Baptiste scored the winner at Norwich and that was his second goal in a few days after finding the net against Huddersfield. 
Primarily, Baptiste was brought in to strengthen the defence and give the back-line that bit more experience.

So for him to be chipping in with goals – that was his third for the club – is a big bonus.

North End need goals from all over the pitch because they have not got a 25-goal-a-season player.

That is not a criticism, it is a fact, and Grayson has worked hard on setting the team up to make sure goals come from different players.

Back to Baptiste – I think he will turn out to be a very astute loan signing as the campaign unfolds.

He was unlucky to get that bad injury right at the start of his time at Middlesbrough.

This season, he is looking to play a lot of games to get his full sharpness back and so far, he has been doing that.

The win at Norwich was Preston’s second victory in the space of a few days, after they beat Huddersfield.

That was another really good result, also coming against a side in the top four.

Huddersfield had been flying before then, and while they might not have the stature of Norwich or Newcastle, they are clearly a very good side.

North End are now ninth in the table – not bad considering they started the month back in 19th position.

That is really good progress and long may it continue. It just shows that if you have a bit of patience and faith in your manager when things are not going too well, that can pay dividends.

Next for PNE is the double header with Newcastle on Tuesday and Saturday.

First is the League Cup tie at St James’ Park, then it is back to Deepdale where league points are up for grabs.

I would think that both teams will make changes on Tuesday night in the cup.

They will want some of the players to be fresh for the league game and I doubt either manager will want to show his hand in terms of selection ahead of Saturday.

Newcastle are clearly the team to beat at the moment. They are going great guns at the top of the table and are favourites to go straight back up to the Premier League.

What I will say about the Magpies this season is that they look a lot more solid behind the scenes.

In the past, it seems that they were mis-managed, with signings made and thrust on the manager, rather than him choosing who he wants.

Rafa Benitez looks like he has got a lot more authority – that was no doubt one of the conditions of him staying on in the summer.

Newcastle have signed players who will do a great job in the Championship, as well as keeping some of the ones from the Premier League.