Paul Gallagher scores the penalty against Sheffield United
Paul Gallagher scores the penalty against Sheffield United
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Two swings of Paul Gallagher’s right boot and a nod of the head from Paul Huntington was all that was needed to change a mind-set in the space of 10 minutes.

Agony on Saturday, ecstasy by Tuesday, welcome to the world of Preston North End!

Spirits were sagging a week ago when the Lilywhites were beaten at Crawley.

The manager had just about everything he did questioned in the wake of defeat, from tactics to formation, to what he said to the media.

Four nights later, Simon Grayson had guided PNE past Sheffield United to set up an FA Cup visit from Manchester United and all was right with the world.

One result can spark a season back into life and could what happened at Bramall Lane be a defining moment for North End this term?

Whether or not it is, we will see against Coventry today and at Chesterfield on Tuesday evening.

Although neither will attract the coverage and attention of the United game, these next two matches are vital.

The gap between North End and the top three cannot be allowed to keep growing, even with 19 games left.

With MK Dons and Bristol City playing each other today, one or both will drop points.

What a boost, should PNE take advantage by beating Coventry and squeeze up on one or both.

Play like they did on Tuesday night and Grayson’s men will have every chance.

I’ll hold my hand up and admit I crossed the Pennines with hope rather than expectation in light of what I had seen at Crawley.

Theteam was not absolutely dreadful there, just flat and devoid of attacking ideas.

But it was a dreadful result – Crawley are down there for a reason.

Everything they were not at Crawley, they were against Sheffield United.

Creative, exciting, vibrant and confident, all that combined to produce a 3-1 win and a deserved one at that.

When the team fell 1-0 behind very much against the run of play, it was quite strange to see accusations of negativity raise their heads.

PNE had been anything but negative, hitting the post and forcing the Blades keeper into four quality saves by then.

That 10-minute spell just after the hour put any similar accusations to bed, North End keeping their foot to the floor once they had equalised.

Calum Woods at left-back, Scott Laird on the wing, Gallagher down the middle, it worked a treat.

Marvellous stuff and now that needs to be repeated on a regular basis.

Ignoring the ‘one match at a time’ rhetoric just for the moment, it is hard not to be excited by the United fifth-round clash.

I wrote in this column a few weeks ago about a desire to see some FA Cup romance for North End and now it seems to have arrived in abundance.

To be fair, the club have had some decent ties in recent years, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal all paying a visit to Deepdale.

But those games do seem to get lost in the murkiness of a first-round replay defeat at Southend on a cold Tuesday night in November.

Ticketing will always be an issue when big games come along and you cannot please everyone when it comes to who gets what.

With United’s visit though, Preston seem to have got it as near spot-on as is possible in such circumstances and with relatively little time to organise it all.

The fans who went to the replay have been rewarded, so too those who have bought tickets for the Coventry game.

Every credit for giving today’s attendance a big boost at the same time as no doubt selling out the cup tie. It makes perfect sense in terms of both revenue and atmosphere.

News has reached us of grumbles from some United fans over their 4,500 allocation.

Their beef is about the front rows of the Bill Shankly Kop being covered over, hence denying them a few hundreds more tickets.

For starters, their allocation is 1,500 more than the 3,000 minimum which FA Cup rules demand. And why are they suddenly experts in the field of Deepdale’s appearance?

Virgin Trains got dragged into it all as it is their logo on the cover stretched along the unused seats.

But any regular at Deepdale will have seen the front rows at both ends of the ground have been no-go areas for two or three seasons as some of the seats are broken.

It has been quite a hot topic of debate among fans as to why some of the breakages have not been repaired.

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, eh?