Adam Lord takes a closer look at North End’s third straight win at Ashton Gate.
Big Mak is the man for Preston at the moment
It’s been quite a week for Simon Makienok. On the fringes of the squad for so long this season, the giant Dane has seized his chance over the last few days, scoring crucial goals against first Nottingham Forest and then at Ashton Gate on Saturday. What has been so impressive is his all-round play. The goals were routine finishes and at 6ft 7in, Makienok was always going to be an asset in both boxes with his height. However he has shown what a mobile player he can be and linked up play very well, crucial when playing as a lone front man as he did in Bristol. It is goals he will be judged on though and with his tally now at six it appears the Dane is only going from strength to strength.
Players continue to take their chance
Makienok is the latest in a long line of players to grab their opportunity when handed it by PNE boss Simon Grayson. Jordan Hugill has for so long this season been the main man up top but as soon as he was afforded a breather Makienok picked up the baton. It is something that has happened throughout the squad this season, Chris Maxwell and Ben Pearson perhaps the best two examples of players who have roared into contention after slow starts to the season. On Saturday Alan Browne, in and out of the side this season, had a second straight strong showing the middle of the park while Paul Huntington came in for his first start since the league cup hammering at Newcastle and was as dependable as ever.
Winning games like this is a good sign
Seven points out of nine makes it a fine week for PNE leading up to Christmas. The games have been largely entertaining and in truth, at times, have lacked a little quality. But as with Blackburn Rovers seven days ago the lasting impression leaving Ashton Gate was not of any great footballing feat but of a good show of character. In both games North End have been pegged back before striking again to take all three points. It was perhaps even more in evidence in the West Country given North End were away from home and the Robins’ crowd was up after Aaron Wilbraham’s equaliser. Not that Daniel Johnson had read the script, his marauding run ending in the winner. Whether he meant it or not, I’m not sure if any PNE fan really cares.
PNE can still be more clinical in front of goal
On Wednesday at Forest Grayson conceded his side should have killed off the hosts at the City Ground before they hit back in the second half for a point. The result on Saturday was the right one but the same criticism can be levelled at the Lilywhites. Dominated for the first 20 minutes, Makienok’s opener came against the run of play. Either side of the interval though North End had chances to be two or even three to the good. The goal didn’t come though and Wilbraham’s leveller had a sense of inevitability about it. As mentioned though, that PNE had the spirit and drive to find the decisive goal is to their great credit. It just could have been a lot easier.
Ashton Gate is a happy hunting ground
‘Can we play here every week?’ Johnson’s goal five minutes from time made it three straight wins for PNE as Ashton Gate. Saturday’s victory came by the same scoreline, 2-1, and in a similar manner to the last visit in January. It sets North End, 11th in the table and five points off the play-offs, up nicely with another three games in a week starting with the mouth-watering prospect of Leeds at Deepdale on Boxing Day.