Browne's stunner was highlight of what was a difficult afternoon for Preston, says fan John Roper
I was just about to compose a summary of a very disappointing afternoon with North End looking like they were only going to get one point from a game where they had played against a Derby side reduced to 10 men for 70 minutes.
However, it is never over until it’s over and Alan Browne struck a beautiful curling left foot shot into the corner of David Marshall’s goal with 96 minutes showing on the clock. North End got really bogged down in the second half of the game after going in at half-time looking like they would get the win at some point in the second half.
The solid Derby defending and North End’s low energy and slow build up play were frustrating the watching fans just as much as they were frustrating the North End manager who had tried several formations to try and break down the stubborn Derby defence.
It was certainly late, very late, but the beautiful curling effort from Browne brought a huge Christmas cheer in Roper Towers after it looked for all money like two points had been lost. Neil kept faith with the XI who were on duty in the Friday night victory over Bristol City at Deepdale eight days ago.
North End, playing in their two tone blue, adopted the usual 4-2-3-1 but it was the home side who had some early pressure without being too threatening towards Declan Rudd in the North End goal.
Martyn Waghorn had a header early on that went over the top and after 15 minutes, the visitors had a double effort through shots from Sean Maguire and Paul Gallagher. With 20 minutes gone the game took a twist when Waghorn was sent off for dangerous play with an awful tackle on Browne in the middle of the park.
North End gradually asserted themselves and for the most part took control. Josh Earl had a shot saved at the back post and North End had plenty of pressure, and corners but couldn’t make any of them count. Darnell Fisher was booked for totting up several fouls and North End went in at half time in the ascendancy but with the scoreline still level. No changes for PNE at half time as we looked to make our extra man count.
Tom Barkhuizen and Maguire had shots saved early in the second half but on the hour mark Emil Riis and Jayden Stockley came on for Maguire and Fisher as the manager changed tack. The formation of 3-5-2 was adopted and to be honest it really didn’t work and as the half wore on the Rams were getting more of the ball than there really should have being a man down. Tom Bayliss and Ryan Ledson replaced Gallagher and the limping Scott Sinclair as Neil looked for a way to unlock Derby.
It was all very flat and although Josh Harrop was introduced for Barkhuizen, the North End output was very similar.Then, just as you thought it was game over, the ball eventually found its way out to the right hand side of the home penalty area and Alan Browne cut inside from the inside right position and secured the three points for a weary looking North End. So Boxing Day delight for Preston on an afternoon when things went right for us for a change right at the end of the game.
This is certainly not a Christmas encounter that will live long in the memory of supporters and I think it is worth reminding ourselves that we struggled for long periods of this game to break down 10-man Derby.
However the Rams are a team on the up in my opinion and although the winner came right at the end we should not beat ourselves up too much about what went before. The win takes us up to 13th in the Championship and with two home games to come the league table might look an awful lot better after the second of those two games against Nottingham Forest.
Two wins on the trot in the first two games over the festive period with six points and no goals conceded. So lets just take our victory,don’t complain too much and have another festive beer. Then we can look forward to Coventry on Tuesday evening at Deepdale.