Dave Seddon's Big Match verdict

This result was enough to make Delia Smith choke on her boiled eggs and put Alan Partridge in a spin on the ring road around Norwich.

Sunday, 23rd October 2016, 2:56 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th October 2016, 6:53 pm
Alex Baptiste turns away to celebrate as his header hits the back of the net

Preston inflicted a first home defeat of the campaign on the Canaries, not only ruffling their feathers but making the rest of the Championship sit up and take notice.

This was a third positive result inside a week against a team in the division’s top four, following on from a draw at Brighton and Wednesday’s win over Huddersfield.

There is no doubt that this was the stand-out result of that trio – in fact of the whole season to date.

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Here was a Norwich side, starting the game in second place and having collected five wins and a draw from their six league games on home turf.

Although Preston’s liking for playing against the better teams was worth noting, the pre-match odds still looked stacked in favour of the hosts, who are seeking to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

Once the navy blue-clad Lilywhites had ridden the storm after a quick dash out of the blocks by Alex Neil’s men, they went on to execute a game-plan to perfection.

They contained City with a smothering 4-1-4-1 and looked a threat on the break.

The longer the game stayed goalless and the gaps began opening up, you sensed North End had a chance of snatching the three points.

And they did, in the 75th minute when Alex Baptiste was left unmarked to meet Daniel Johnson’s free-kick and power home a header.

There then followed a strong rearguard action to protect the lead, one in which Chris Maxwell and also Bailey Wright excelled.

Maxwell pulled off a fine double save to thwart Cameron Jerome.

Later, Wright hooked Alex Pritchard’s header away from goal.

One way or another that was going in – until Wright’s intervention. The header looked on target and Jerome was waiting to touch it home anyway.

Those chances aside, much of Norwich’s attacking play was done in front of the Preston back four, but they did not possess the craft to unpick it.

Scrolling through social media after, there were the usual, ‘We should not be losing to teams like Preston’ comments from some Norwich fans.

On paper, probably not, but in the real world, why not?

Some choose to ignore this is 11-versus-11 game – surprise results can happen and can also be deserved if a side gets it tactically right.

Spending big does help but nor does it guarantee a team success.

Pritchard cost Norwich £8m from Tottenham and was left on the bench until early in the second half.

The North End starting line-up, in terms of transfer fees, cost roughly £840,000.

Sometimes hard work and togetherness is worth more than pound notes. Tactically, PNE manager Simon Grayson got this one spot on.

He admitted to taking something of a gamble by going with the same starting XI which had won against Huddersfield, a gamble in the sense of the shorter amount of recovery time as the game was only last Wednesday.

Grayson did alter the shape of the team slightly, switching to 4-1-4-1 from the high-pressing 4-4-2.

A key figure in that system was Ben Pearson’s use as the holding midfielder in front of the back four.

John Welsh had played it to good effect in the win over Aston Villa three weeks ago.

This time it was Pearson’s turn to occupy the space which Wes Hoolahan – the Norwich playmaker – likes to work in.

Pearson’s rise in stature this last month, has been very impressive to say the least.

For the first six weeks of the season he hardly kicked a ball. Now the mop-haired midfielder is one of the first names on the team-sheet.

Another to come to the fore since the September drubbing at Brentford, is Maxwell.

He has worn the gloves for all seven unbeaten games and this was his third clean sheet in that run.

On Saturday, Maxwell was tested with the clock showing only 15 seconds, tipping a shot from Jerome over the bar.

Was that ever-so-early chance a sign of a very long afternoon ahead for PNE?

Not in the sense of being torn apart by Norwich but it was the signal to roll up the sleeves and prepare to stand solid in the way of what the hosts could throw at them.

Preston, wearing their blue and white away strip for the first time in the league, had an early chance too.

Ben Pringle hooked a pass over the Canaries defence to release Jordan Hugill. He ran clear on goal but put his shot too close to Michael McGovern, who blocked.

For the remainder of the first half, Norwich were in the main restricted to shots from outside the box.

It was a containment job by PNE, one done effectively, and as half-time loomed, they came close to taking the lead when another Pringle pass sent Callum Robinson clear.

Again, McGovern saved at close quarters in the box.

He was helpless to prevent North End’s winner, one which stunned all but a small section of Carrow Road.

Martin Olsson’s foul on Robinson led to a free-kick out on the right wing, level with the six-yard box. Daniel Johnson delivered it left-footed into the middle, BAPTISTE jumping to head home from six yards – ‘Back of the net’ as Partridge would say!

Newcastle are next, twice in five days – what price would you get for another upset?