PNE Fans' Panel verdicts
JOHN ROPERIt finished up four but it should have been seven and on another day it could have been ten.
North End put right the horror show in West London last September with a comprehensive 4-2 win against Brentford. Man of the Match, Aiden McGeady, showed his real class to the full by scoring two great goals and laying on a third for Callum Robinson. The performance was topped off by Daryl Horgan, who scored a typical Horgan goal to give North End all three points and to keep the play-off dream alive for another week. Brentford played their part in a very good game and looked dangerous when they attacked as North End gave them just a little too much room on the ball in the middle of the Park. Having said that it was Preston’s day and the meagre crowd of 10,130 were treated to the kind of display we knew these players had in them and, on a cold February afternoon, they certainly delivered. The visitors started the game the better and played some confident football with plenty of movement. Chris Maxwell had a very early save to make before the Bees took the lead when left back Field headed home a corner from the right completely unmarked. It was poor defending from North End but seemed to galvanise the home side into a response which was only ten minutes in coming. McGeady picked the ball up in midfield and drove forward before unleashing a shot which beat Bentley in the Brentford goal from about 30 yards out. After the break, North End pickled up exactly were they had left off. A McGeady shot was saved before the mercurial Irishman played a superb through ball for Robinson to knock home and put North End in the lead. Greg Cunningham then made a superb clearance off the line before McGeady had a major say in things again. With 15 minutes to go McGeady got the ball in a central position and with four defenders in the vicinity he managed to get a superb shot away which beat Bentley to his left to win the game for North End. Preston weren’t finished, though, and Horgan picked the ball up from a Pearson pass near the centre circle and burst through, before firing home with the left foot to make the day complete. Hugill and Stevie May both had chances, before a deflected goal in stoppage time added a touch of respectability from the visitors’ point of view.
A good day at the office for North End and I think that the most encouraging part of the afternoon, apart from the display of McGeady of course, was the pace and counter-attacking that North End showed as the game went on. Tom Barkhuizen looked very comfortable on the ball when he came on and it was great to see Stevie May back in action after 15 months out. Still a very long way to go if we are to trouble the end of season lottery but this was a very encouraging performance after the flat spot of the last few weeks. We need to go again in the same vein on Tuesday against Birmingham City at Deepdale before we embark on the invasion of Wigan for what should be a fantastic atmosphere at the DW Stadium next Saturday afternoon.
Finally! We’ve done it! That Brentford hoodoo that’s overshadowed us was blown in to pieces. After the reverse fixture back in September, I’m sure the players didn’t need much motivation for this one, but after what was a fairly bright start to the game compared to recent weeks, we slipped a bit, weren’t really at our fighting best in the first half. It was sloppy, too many individual errors, and the visitors were good value for their goal when we let Tom Field head one in totally unmarked just a few yards from goal. But it was a quick response, an individual bit of skill from one of the most talented players we’ve had at Deepdale for years, McGeady jumped on a loose ball, got his head down and fired one in to the bottom corner with his left foot. In the second period, North End were much improved, more direct, on the front foot, pressing, taking full advantage of the space Brentford left at the back. Just seven minutes after the break Robinson grabbed his ninth of the season with a little flick towards goal from McGeady cross, and North End never looked back. With 15 to play, up stepped McGeady again with a magnificent strike, holding off a few Brentford players before striking one in to the top corner. By this stage it was a pleasure to watch and we were carving the visitors apart, Horgan ran through for his first North End goal after a good performance from him.
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Personally speaking I have always believed that the myth of a bogey team is more of a statistical quirk than a voodoo curse. My take on this theory was confirmed on Saturday when we ended a six-game losing sequence to Brentford in style by recording our first home victory against The Bees since the days when David Moyes was in charge of the club 18 years ago. Man of the match Aiden McGeady had a demonic influence on the game’s outcome, playing the leading role in the exorcism of the hoodoo. The Bees had been buzzing around after taking an early lead following some slack marking from a set-piece. But a few minutes later the Everton loanee took the sting out of their tails when he fired in a powerful low shot which flew into the net as if his head had been pressed to shoot just like in the old striker five-a-side table game. In the second half we took the game to our opponents and McGeady provided an assist when he curled in a teasing cross for Robinson to tap in from close range. We killed the game off with two goals in the space of three minutes, the first coming from the mercurial McGeady when he curled in a stunning goal from the edge of the area. It was then the turn of the hard working Daryl Horgan to score his first goal for the club with a neat finish from a breakaway move after being played through by the majestic Ben Pearson. The Deepdale pigeon flew in to pay another visit to the stadium but unlike the Ipswich game after spending the first half on the wing of both halves of the pitch it retreated to the shelter of the Sir Tom Finney stand and sat with the paying spectators . The three points gained were vitally important in our quest to move up the table and halted a run of four games without a win. Five years ago we were struggling in League One and lined up with a strike force of Chris Holroyd and Graham Cummins. Against Brentford we were able to bring on the likes of Barkhuizen and May and leave Beckford out completely. We have recently turned down a £2million bid for another striker Jordan Hugill and sit in the table on the edge of a play-off place, so despite the cold weather I for one am not complaining.