Reporter Adam Lord takes a closer look at Preston’s win over Huddersfield as North End made it six unbeaten in all competitions
Gallagher delivers timely reminder of his class
An ever-present at the start of the season, Paul Gallagher has found his way back into the PNE side after injury far from straightforward. But after laying on the late equaliser for Simon Makienok at Brighton, the 32-year-old picked up from where he left off with his pinpoint deliveries proving the opening two goals for Tom Clarke and Alex Baptiste on Wednesday night. Not content with that, a third wicked centre was put into such a dangerous area early in the second half that it evaded everyone before creeping in at the far post. While others have emerged in recent weeks in the middle of the park, Ben Pearson storming into contention and Daniel Johnson finding his form amongst others, Gallagher has been made to wait. But against the Terriers he gave a real reminder of just what a key man he can be.
Team will continue to be picked game by game
Gallagher was one of four changes on Wednesday night. He was joined by Bailey Wright, Greg Cunningham and Ben Pringle in the starting line-up as Paul Huntington, Tommy Spurr, Chris Humphrey and the injured John Welsh dropped out. For some clubs a good run would mean the same team week in, week out. But as PNE made it six games without defeat in all competitions it is clear that Grayson is picking sides with each individual game in mind. Both Huntington and Spurr impressed in the 2-2 draw at Brighton but there was no room for them against Huddersfield as the PNE boss turned to the more mobile Bailey Wright and previous ever-present Greg Cunningham. Expect more changes at Norwich on Saturday and a likely return to three central defenders.
Ben Pringle still to nail down a role
The summer arrival of Ben Pringle was widely celebrated, the playmaker having previously starred for Rotherham against PNE a few years back. The blonde bombshell is an easy footballer on the eye with an excellent left foot and the ability to look quicker with the ball at his feet than without it. Wednesday was his first league start since the defeat to Derby back in August with the midfielder having largely been on the fringes. Given room to roam off the bench at Brighton he impressed on Saturday while against Huddersfield it was a left wing berth which he took time to grow into, having more of an influence in the second half. It still feels like he is yet to find his role with PNE though, but like so many others have proved this season, it’s far too early to count out a player of his quality.
Deepdale can be a real asset for PNE
Having won more away matches than home games as they finished 11th in the Championship last season, form at Deepdale was one obvious area where Grayson’s side could improve if they were to make even more of an impact in the second tier this time around. After a stuttering start, North End coming out on the wrong side of several tight games, things have clicked on home soil with Wednesday night’s triumph their fourth in a row. After games on the road against Norwich and Newcastle in league and cup the Magpies head to Preston to finish off what, with a win, would be quite a memorable month at Deepdale. Rafa Benitez’s side will undoubtedly pose the biggest test of PNE’s credentials though on what should be a great occasion with a huge away following.
North End are more than a match for anyone
Few would bet against North End getting positive results against Norwich and Newcastle. With improving form heading into the international break, this run of games against the Championship’s top four was going to tell us a lot about how good PNE can be. So far they’ve passed with flying colours, a good point at Brighton coming before the convincing win over Huddersfield. Now come the two biggest tests and after the 5-0 thumping at Brentford earlier in the season Grayson and his players will be well aware of how quickly things can turn around. Recent results though mean they head to Carrow Road full of confidence.