PNE 3, Rovers 2: Dave Seddon's big match verdict
Some things you have to wait a long time for, in Preston North End's case it was more than 38 years for a home league win over Blackburn.
Not since August 1978 had they got the better of Rovers at Deepdale, that a 4-1 victory in the days of perms, tashes and silky adidas kits.
The wait ended around 7.25pm on Saturday evening, an entertaining and often frantic contest edged by the Lilywhites.
On top for the first half but on the back foot for chunks of the second, they dug out a late winner.
This was only the fourth league meeting on Preston turf since the 1978 game, one being drawn and the last two won by Rovers – their 2001 victory taking them into the Premier League.
The clubs have been back on equal footing for the last two seasons divisional wise and the bragging rights are with North End – to be played for again at Ewood Park on March 18.
Derby games can often not live up to billing but while this one might have lacked a bit of finesse, it more than made up for in terms of entertainment and incident.
Five goals, two penalties, last-ditch tackles, it was one you could not take your eyes off for a moment.
It provided Preston with their first win in four, while from the visitors’ perspective, it was Rovers’ first defeat in the same period.
Daniel Johnson – born in Jamaica, raised in London – was PNE’s main man in the heat of a Red Rose battle.
He netted North End’s first two goals, curling home a real beauty and later restoring the lead from the penalty spot.
Tynesider Danny Graham twice equalised for Rovers.
It was left to Callum Robinson, a lad with his roots in Northampton, to settle it.
The three scorers might not hail from the county but they all knew what was at stake locally.
For Johnson, it was a return to the scoring form which was a regular part of his game for the 18 months after arriving here.
The goals had dried up of late, the midfielder having just the one to his name this season until Saturday.
DJ had blown a bit hot and cold of late, but this was him back to what he does well.
Pushed a bit higher up the pitch, he saw more of the ball in and around the edge of the box.
His shot for the first goal came in typical territory, just outside the ‘D’, it curled with precision into the net.
At the other end, his rash tackle put Sam Gallagher on his backside to concede the penalty which let Rovers in for an equaliser.
When referee Kevin Friend was to point to the spot in North End’s favour, it was DJ who strode up to score.
He was later to have a hand in the third with a pass which found Greg Cunningham, the left-back’s run and cross setting-up the chance for Robinson.
His reward was a tour of the hospitality lounges to be presented with the man of the match award, not to mention a string of interviews with the media.
Johnson and his PNE team-mates did not have this game all their own way.
In the first half they did, getting on top of Blackburn with a powerful display.
Their 4-4-2 system which had Simon Makienok and Jordan Hugill up front, supported from out wide by Robinson and Marnick Vermijl, worked well.
In the second half though, Preston got out-numbered in midfield, it coming as no real surprise when Owen Coyle’s men got back level again.
Rather than play out for a draw or concede again, the hosts summoned up a new head of steam and duly got the winner.
With two away games to come this week, the victory was timely and much needed.
Simon Grayson does have a knack of delivering results when needed.
A win was needed to rule a line under last weekend’s events at Hillsborough.
Even if it had been put to bed in the dressing room, fans needed to see that happen on the pitch too.
Vermjil and Makienok coming in for Alan Browne and Aiden McGeady, were the two changes from defeat to Sheffield Wednesday.
With Paul Gallagher still sidelined, you did wonder where Preston’s creativity might come from.
It came from a collective effort and while not perfect, it worked sufficiently – this the fourth time in the league they had scored three goals.
Robinson started the ball rolling for the 18th minute opener, his low cross finding Vermijl who laid it back into the path of JOHNSON.
The curl he put on his shot took it away from the keeper before bringing it back inside the post.
DJ dropped a clanger for the equaliser three minutes later, his foul on Gallagher a definite penalty.
Graham’s spot-kick was parried by Chris Maxwell, the keeper getting in the way of the follow-up.
A third bite at the cherry by Gallagher was blocked by Alex Baptiste, GRAHAM firing home at the foruth attempt.
When Darragh Lenihan stuck out an arm to block a Makienok header – well spotted by Mr Friend – it saw PNE win their first penalty of the season which JOHNSON calmly rolled home.
GRAHAM got Blackburn back on level pegging again in the 70th minute,his low shot on the half-turn clipping off Tom Clarke – enough to take it in at the near post.
PNE’s winner came in the 80th minute, Cunningham cutting in from the left and squaring a pass to ROBINSON who adjusted his feet well and drilled a low shot past Jason Steele from 12 yards.