PNE Fans' Panel: John Roper on Cardiff victory
Preston North End turned in their best performance of the season with a comprehensive 3-0 victory against the high-flying Bluebirds at Deepdale.
Just as Alex Neil had predicted before the game it was a quite physical encounter at times but this young North End side all stood up and were counted and in the end gave Cardiff a lesson in how to play in the slippery conditions.
Goals from a Josh Harrop free-kick, Sean Maguire and an Alan Browne special from inside the centre circle gave North End all three points in front a another very sparse Tuesday night attendance of just 10,796.
I don’t know what more the club can do to entice local people to watch the boys because we are playing some of our best football for quite a number of years and the standard is certainly worthy of a higher attendance inside Deepdale.
North End kicked off playing towards the Kop and the 363 hardy souls who had made their way up from South Wales.
4-2-3-1 was again the order of the day with John Welsh having a tremendous game playing in front of the back four.
North End had the early chances with a Maguire shot and then a double effort from Jordan Hugill and Maguire resulting in a North End corner.
Cardiff, for their part, looked strong and forceful on the break but the back four defended superbly all evening with special mention to young Ben Davies and the ever-improving Josh Earl.
The opener came when we won a free-kick to the left of the goal and Harrop slotted the ball home beautifully along the floor to give us a deserved lead 10 minutes from the break.
The front four were causing increasing problems for the visitors’ defence but we only had one goal to show for our efforts as the teams went in at half-time.
In the second period Cardiff came at us from the start and although we held firm the visitors had plenty of the ball in the first 20 minutes of the second half as you would expect from a team top of the Championship.
North End saw the threat off though and began to really assert themselves again as the visitors started to tire against the home side.
North End went two up with 20 minutes to go when Tom Barkhuizen won a good ball in the Cardiff half and pressed forward only for Maguire to eventually beat two defenders and put the ball into the net from a tight angle.
It was the mark of a real goalscorer and I will say it again that I think we have a real player on our hands with Maguire.
With 10 minutes to go a clearance dropped to Browne in the centre of the field and the Irishman whacked the ball goalwards and had Neil Etheridge in the Cardiff goal clutching at straws as the 45-yard effort hit the back of the net.
Game over and an excellent all-round performance topped off with a goal to remember.
A great evening then for the Deepdale faithful and a win that leaves North End in fifth position in the Championship on goal difference.
Add to this the fact that we have beaten two and drawn with one of the other five teams in the top six and I think it is now fair to say that North End have made a very good start to this campaign.
The manager and his style of play seems to be growing on a number of people and the confidence is now starting to appear once again when we discuss the fortunes of our beloved North End.
One of the hardest jobs was picking a man of the match because in all honesty you could have picked any of the 11 but my vote goes to the old warhorse holding it together in the centre of the field - John Welsh.