Brighton 2-2 PNE: Five things we learned
Reporter Adam Lord takes a closer look at Preston's draw at the Amex Stadium.
Hugill can be PNE’s main man up top
Jordan Hugill has more than taken his chance leading the line for PNE with Joe Garner having left for pastures new and Jermaine Beckford struggling with a hamstring problem. The strike against Brighton, the big man showing good composure after some calamitous play from Bruno and David Stockdale, was his fifth of the season but it’s been about much more than just the goals. The popular striker held the ball up well, the ball sticking at crucial times to relieve what was often some serious pressure on the North End backline. Even with Simon Makienok grabbing the headlines again at Brighton after his hat-trick at Bournemouth it’s clear that Hugill is Preston’s main man at the moment.
Makienok certainly has a role to play
Hugill’s emergence doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for PNE’s great Dane. His North End career has been stop-start with two standout games for the Lilywhites punctuating the early stages of his time at Deepdale. Saturday’s late, late header was classic big man stuff. Paul Gallagher stood up the inviting cross from deep with Makienok rising high above what had been a shaky Brighton defence to guide a header home. The Bournemouth hat-trick showed there is more to his game than that and he will want to make sure that stays at the forefront of everyone’s minds. But given the match situation his introduction was made with height in mind. As Simon Grayson said post match, he is certainly “something different” for PNE.
Battling qualities will be key
Both North End’s goals came out of nothing, Hugill profiting on some comedy defending early on before Makienok levelled things up late on. In between Brighton did control large periods of the game and looked a real threat going forwards. Two goals in 11 second-half minutes turned the game on its head and at that point, Sam Baldock and Glenn Murray having but Brighton 2-1 up, the game was going to go one of two ways. Either PNE were going to fold or they were going to battle their way back into things. Thankfully for those 575 fans who had made the long trip it was the latter. John Welsh impressed again in front of the back four before limping off late on, two last-ditch challenges on Anthony Knockaert particularly catching the eye. Paul Huntington and Tommy Spurr also put in some crucial blocks on their return to the side.
Maxwell’s mobility will be an asset - but he needs to choose his moments
Ahead of the game Alex Baptiste was given the job of speaking to the media about the international break and the tough run of fixtures coming up in October. The experienced defender spoke about how Chris Maxwell has taken his chance since coming into the side in the league cup win at Bournemouth. The former Fleetwood man is a modern goalkeeper, from a different mould to Anders Lindegaard, and is never shy about racing from his area. That was on show at Brighton but a couple of moments did leave you with your heart in your mouth. No doubt his mobility is a real strength but to use a piece of cricket parlance, shot selection is key. There was some interesting insight on Twitter from his former goalkeeping coach at Fleetwood David Lucas post match. “Be an influence on the game not a consequence of it.” said the ex-PNE man who backed Maxwell to play for Manchester City one day.
PNE will relish facing Championship’s top sides
Having performed well in the run-up to the international break it was going to be a big ask for PNE to continue that form against the Championship’s top four. Saturday represented a fine start though. A defeat would have halted some of that momentum but of all the ways to pick up a point, a 92nd-minute goal means Simon Grayson’s men head into a clash with high-flying Huddersfield at Deepdale on Wednesday night full of confidence.