PNE 3-0 Cardiff: Four things we learned

Preston North End's Callum Robinson is congratulated on scoring his team's second goal.
Preston North End's Callum Robinson is congratulated on scoring his team's second goal.
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Adam Lord takes a look at Preston North End’s 3-0 win over Cardiff on Tuesday night.

Goals change games

Not necessarily something we learned but Tom Clarke’s first goal was vital last night. Despite five defeats in six games to start the season PNE have done okay, and only ever lost by a single goal. After a slow start last night, the thunder and lightning diverting attention from the pitch to the skies, North End began to control proceedings against a below-par Cardiff. They needed to get their noses in front though and not only did they do that but a quick second from Callum Robinson completely changed the atmosphere on and off the field at Deepdale, giving everyone a real lift. Simon Grayson’s men didn’t scream clear in the second half but the result was never in doubt, Jordan Hugill’s fine curler from 20 yards capping off an excellent night all round.

Defensive new boys already making their mark

Eyebrows were raised when Grayson made two defensive signings on deadline day but Tuesday night’s victory gave an indication of what Alex Baptiste and Marnick Vermijl will bring to Deepdale this season. Baptiste showed his class alongside Clarke, who also had an excellent game at the back, reading the game well and showing good feet when he had the opportunity. The need for an out and out right back was obvious and PNE knew what they were getting in bringing Vermijl back to the club. But he covered plenty of ground down the right, as Greg Cunningham did down the left, and will take some shifting from that spot whether it’s four or three at the back.

Callum Robinson could be a key man for PNE

Robinson is getting better all the time and produced another standout display on Tuesday night. With Aiden McGeady now seen as PNE’s star trickster after his deadline-day move the former Aston Villa youngster gave a timely reminder of what he can offer. With pace to burn the Cardiff defence were never comfortable as shown by his goal. Wary of the threat he posed the Bluebirds dropped off allowing him to drill a low shot beyond the shaky Ben Wilson. From then on it was clear what the goal had done for his confidence as he went onto torment the visitors all night long. Having impressed both out wide and leading the line alongside Jermaine Beckford in recent weeks Robinson is proving what an asset he can be.

Could 4-4-2 be the way forward?

Having tried plenty of set-ups already this season, Grayson opted for 4-4-2 to the surprise of a few on Tuesday night with Robinson and McGeady playing wide of Hugill and Eoin Doyle. It took time to warm up but things soon clicked into gear. Full backs Cunningham and Vermijl overlapped with regularity while Cardiff never looked comfortable facing up to the wide men. The front two took their time to get into the game but worked tirelessly all night for the benefit of others. After weeks of talk about PNE being “nearly there” things really came together against Cardiff. It has set a benchmark. Whether 4-4-2 is how Grayson goes on Saturday remains to be seen, three central defenders often preferred away from home, but he, and the fans, now know what his side are capable of.