Preston North End edge Blackburn Rovers in thrilling derby as Liam Lindsay scores late winner
Ewood Park has been a dancefloor for Preston North End in recent years and the latest instalment of this modern day derby did not disappoint. North End were looking to make more memories in Blackburn Rovers' back yard, after storming to victory in the snow last December. This meeting was evenly fought from start to finish and looked to be heading for a share of the spoils, but Liam Lindsay would have the last laugh. Party time, again.
Under the Friday night floodlights, this Championship's season sole Lancashire derby was only going to start one way, in front of a 20 thousand crowd who'd waited all day for kick-off. The two teams came flying out of the traps, passing quickly; tackling hard. Ryan Lowe's men had the first sight of goal, when Milutin Osmajic got in behind the Blackburn backline and picked out Duane Holmes - who saw his first time shot charged down.
Jon Dahl Tomasson's men then raced down the other end and were thwarted by two pieces of heroic defending in the Preston box. Jordan Storey timed his sliding challenge to a tee to block Sam Szmodics' from close range, before Lindsay took inspiration and hurled himself in front of Adam Wharton's pulled effort. End-to-end was the early feel in East Lancashire, as chances continued to come along despite a drop off in intensity.
Holmes sent his shot from distance straight down the throat of Leo Wahlstedt, leaving the overlapping Brad Potts bemused not to have received the ball. He should perhaps know by now, though, that the American does not turn down an opportunity to test the goalkeeper. Moments later, Tomasson must've thought his side had gone ahead but the six thousand travelling away fans gasped as one, when Arnor Sigurdsson rattled the crossbar with a first time volley from 10 yards.
One of the Championship's oldest clichés is the importance of scoring the first goal and both sides were threatening to grab it. But Alan Browne is not a player you can leave untracked - and as he broke into final third space on 35 minutes you could picture the outcome before the ball had even reached him. Making that happen was not straightforward, but Potts lifted his head up down the right and sprayed a sensational lofted pass right on to the right boot of Browne.
And what followed was simply emphatic from the skipper. With old boss Alex Neil watching on, North End's number eight rolled back the years - a flashback to Leeds United away in 2019 - as he plucked the ball out of the sky and slammed his shot into the roof of the net. It was bedlam in the away end, but Rovers would keep coming and the woodwork aided PNE once again as Andrew Moran saw his volley come crashing back off the upright.
If the opening goal was key, the next one was vital. Preston had the opportunity to give themselves a cushion, while Rovers were hunting a leveller to swing the game wide open. That is exactly what they did four minutes after the break, with the goal scorer a surprise to absolutely nobody. Sam Szmodics cannot be afforded the space he was given - and he made PNE pay with a low finish past Woodman from inside the box.
It became clear that neither team were going to lie down, with North End having to withstand a wave of Blackburn pressure after their equaliser - before Preston wrestled back some control and started to ask questions once more. Holmes is always on the move and it is no coincidence that chances fall his way. On 62 minutes, a massive one arrived but the number 25 saw his effort agonisingly clip the inside of the post and bounce out.
It was hands on heads again for North End two minutes later, with the packed out Darwen End looking to suck the ball into the back of the net. Osmajic thought he'd headed home for 2-1 from a wonderful Kian Best cross, but the Montenegrin had gone too early and the flag was raised - to his despair. Lowe decided to ring the changes, with Ched Evans, Mads Frokjaer and Robbie Brady introduced.
As injury time approached, caution over losing the contest naturally slipped in but there still felt one moment left in the game. North End may have felt that passed them when Potts headed across goal, with nobody there to convert. But, the following corner was kept alive and Ben Whiteman clipped the ball into the most inviting of areas. What those moments require is bravery and Lindsay has that in abundance: someone who will stick his head in where it hurts.
The Scot sensed the chance to make himself a hero and threw his six-foot-three frame at the ball, to power home the most dramatic of winners. His previous strike here came in front of an empty Ewood; this one will have felt a little bit sweeter. A fifth win away to Blackburn in eight years and a job well done for Preston, who climbed to fourth in the Championship table and head into the weekend feeling pretty darn good.
Attendance: 20,596 (5,789 away)
PNE starting XI: Woodman; Storey, Lindsay, Best, Potts, Whiteman, Browne (c), Holmes (Frokjaer 69'), Millar (Brady 69'), Keane (Evans 61'), Osmajic
PNE unused subs: Cornell, Bauer, Ledson, Woodburn, Mawene, Stewart