Sean Gregan’s exclusive column – back-to-back wins for Preston just what the doctor ordered
I bet Preston will be frustrated that they have not got a game today after two good wins in a week.
Of course, it’s FA Cup fourth round weekend and North End’s defeat to Norwich City earlier this month means it’s a Saturday without a game for the club.
When I was a player, I always found that I could not wait for the next game to come when the team was on a good run of form.
In direct contrast, when the results were not so clever, it was nice to have a breather so that you could recharge the batteries and re-set.
However, North End will have to kick their heels for another week before their next game at home to fellow Championship play-off challengers Swansea City.
It’s good that Alex Neil’s men are back on the winning trail especially after the disappointing Christmas period.
I always said they just needed a scruffy result from somewhere to get them back on track and that’s been the case.
The derby clash against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park was a dour game, but PNE managed to stop the rot by picking up a point and that’s provided the platform to rebuild.
Two great wins against Charlton, at home on Saturday, and then Barnsley away on Tuesday has put the team back in the top six.
I was particularly impressed with the way North End responded after going an early goal behind against the Addicks.
The form at Deepdale has been good this season, but considering the recent bad run, Charlton’s strike after five minutes may have caused a bit of tension among the players and on the terraces.
Thankfully, the players showed their strength of character to fight back and eke out the win 2-1, thanks to goals from Josh Harrop and former Addick Patrick Bauer. Hats off to the fans for getting behind the team and they are going to be important going forward as I think the home form will be key to Preston’s play-off chances.
Picking up wins on the road will aid their cause and that’s exactly what they did with the win at Oakwell.
To be 3-0 up away from home at half-time is a great place to be, especially in the Championship where no game is easy.
But North End fully deserved their lead and some of the goals and finishing were a joy to watch.
It’s no surprise that the performance levels have risen since Daniel Johnson made his return from injury.
He has been a big miss over the last couple of months. He was the club’s leading goalscorer this season before he got injured and still is at the top of the goal charts which just shows how important he is.
The way he finished smartly for the second goal against the Tykes –it was like he had never been away.
He is more than just a goalscorer though – he has that creative influence and I bet the other lads are glad to see him back – Tom Barkhuizen especially so.
Having not scored since October, he was back on the goal trail at Oakwell with two goals.