The PNE fans' panel: North End back in the groove
Three supporters have their say on thumping 4-0 home win over Wigan Athletic
Wigan’s hopes of coming to Deepdale and collecting an easy three points turned out to be pie in the sky as North End built on the second half performance at Aston Villa and thrashed the Latics 4-0 at Deepdale.
The scoreline was just about right as North End dominated all three areas of the pitch and although Chris Maxwell made two excellent saves it was Alex Neil’s boys who were celebrating at the end.
North End’s cause was helped with the dismissal of Gibson for a reckless challenge on Ben Pearson but with the score at 2-0 I don’t think it would have affected the final outcome.
This was much better from North End in front of the Deepdale faithful with every player sticking to the task and the team executing the managers game plan to almost perfection.
North End adopted their 4-2-3-1 formation with three changes from the team that started at Villa Park. It was the visitors who started the brighter as it took the boys 10 minutes or so to settle in to the pace of the game.
Once we got going we looked a threat to the Wigan defence and it was no surprise when Tom Barkhuizen gave North End the lead in the 17th minute, a ball from Alan Browne found Barkhuizen in the inside right position and the wide man fired home with Walton being unable to stop the shot despite getting a hand to it.
Just before the break Lukas Nmecha was brought down from behind when about to shoot but, incredibly, referee Probert waved play on to the astonishment of North End players and fans alike. The second half began much as the first had ended but Maxwell make a superb save to his right to keep the Latics out.
Minutes later we were down the other end of the pitch making it 2-0 but not before Alan Browne had hit the bar when it looked easier to score. Johnson laid the ball off for Robinson who gleefully put North End two up and seemingly on their way.
Gibson was then dismissed for a poor challenge on Pearson and from then on it was virtually all one way. With three minutes to go Nmecha won a penalty which Gallagher duly converted but not before he had to to inform the young striker in no uncertain terms that he Gallagher was the penalty taker.
A fourth goal in added time added insult to injury for the 3,831 travelling Wigan fans, most of whom were passing Standish as the fourth goal went in.Whether Robinson got the final touch or Burn put through his own goal remains to be seen but they all count on what was a very encouraging day for all at Deepdale after a poor start to the season.
A great result, then, after a horrific few weeks with North End delivering the performance we all knew they were capable of.
A word of caution though, amongst all the euphoria, and that is although we are off the bottom we are still in the drop zone and there is still plenty of work ahead. Pearson will be suspended, again, for the trip to bottom club Hull in two weeks time so the manager will have to shuffle the pack to try and keep this little bit of momentum going.
The faster we can get out of the drop zone the better because I think that will lift everyone and we will start looking up the league table instead of down. For now, however, we can reflect on a job well done against a team in decent formand the hope of a better autumn based on what we saw at Deepdale on Saturday.
Just like the Conservative party who have had disagreements within its own ranks our club has had its doubters recently with some frustrated fans even suggesting a change in leadership.
While Alex Neil did not deliver a speech on how he would build a better Preston, the comprehensive victory over Wigan must surely have appeased some of his critics and given some indication that like the country’s economy, better days should lie ahead.
The teams entered the fray to the appropriate tune of “This is the One” and it most certainly was as we gained a vitally important victory in this crunch derby encounter to give us a little breathing space before the international break.
Leaving the ground to the tune of “Happy” summed up my upbeat mood and after this resolute performance I too like Teresa May could even have danced to Abba.Man of the match Ben Pearson once again demonstrated his talismatic quality in the middle of the park and was well supported by Daniel Johnson who followed up his game changing display at Villa with another mesmeric performance.
Centre backs Jordan Storey and Tom Clarke were monumental and I also thought that Tom Barkhuizen had his best game for a while.
Add to this the positives of a confidence boosting clean sheet,an explosive display from Lukas Nmecha and the return of Sean Maguire plus with four points put on the board things look far brighter than they did a week ago.
Before the end of the game the Wigan fans who had arrived in buoyant mood were streaming out of Deepdale like they were on a fire drill while the faithful continued to enjoy their pleasant afternoon in the autumnal sunshine with two late goals putting the gloss on this much-needed win.
The rarity of the ‘lesser-spotted’ win finally made an appearance at Deepdale on Saturday, not having been seen around these parts, or any others, for many a long while this season.
To be in October with only the opening day win against Queens Park Rangers under your belt is an uncomfortable and nervy place to be, but by the end of the 90 minutes this felt like a comfortable victory.
For me there was one key moment in the game that really told the tale of North End’s woes this term. Having just gone one-nil up through a Tom Barkhuizen diagonal shot across the visiting keeper, we did our best to immediately concede from the re-start through a Chris Maxwell flap at a cross.
This time, the re-called Tom Clarke was on hand to block what would have been another killer of an equaliser and this seemed to signal the end of the curse from which the hosts never really looked back. Apart from that spill, Maxwell had an excellent game overall that included two cracking saves at full stretch.
Another plus was the form of Lukas Nmecha, who followed up a good performance against Aston Villa mid-week with a real presence up front that unsettled Wigan’s defenders throughout the match.
Indeed, he should really have been awarded a penalty late in the first half when getting in with a perfectly timed run. He finally got something out of the referee late in the game, being awarded a penalty for Preston’s third goal.
In between, an early second half goal by Callum Robinson and a sending off for Wigan had pretty much wrapped the game up before Paul Gallagher pulled rank on Nmecha to convert from the spot for goal number three.
The double bonus of a stoppage time second strike for Robinson assisted by substitute Sean Maguire put the cherry on the cake. Not only was this Maguire’s long awaited first appearance of the season.