Dave Seddon’s PNE verdict: Browne sparkled in his golden boots

Alan Browne celebrates giving North End the lead against Wolves, pursued by team-mates Josh Earl and Tom Barkhuizen
Alan Browne celebrates giving North End the lead against Wolves, pursued by team-mates Josh Earl and Tom Barkhuizen

Preston’s man of the match award is sponsored by a city centre jewellers, the recipient receiving a voucher to spend in store.

So the rate at which Alan Browne has been winning the starman honour of late, he could be covering himself from head to toe in bling as the vouchers stack up.

Alan Browne.

Alan Browne.

Not that Browne is the type of player to get carried away by his emergence as a key figure in North End’s play-off push.

As down to earth as they come, the Irish midfielder has taken it all in his stride so do not expect to see him dripping in jewellery any time soon.

Browne headed the goal which put PNE in front against runaway leaders Wolves and for a short time threatened a shock victory.

He had earlier hit the post with a shot and if there was a blade of Deepdale grass his gold-coloured boots did not cover in this enthralling clash, it has yet to be found.

The one disappointment was that Browne did not finish on the winning side.

A draw had to suffice, the visitors from the Midlands scoring their equaliser just two minutes after John Welsh had been sent off.

You would have to say that a share of the spoils was a fair outcome, however had North End kept a full complement of players on the pitch, there was a strong argument that they would have gone on to win.

They were deserving of the lead given to them by Browne’s far-post header seven minutes into the second half.

It was that spell of the game in which all the key moments were squashed into.

Before had been Browne’s shot against the woodwork, after it came the red card for Welsh and then Helder Costa’s leveller.

All that happened in 13 minutes but do not be mistaken into thinking that the other 77 were devoid of action.

North End started both halves well, Wolves finishing them the stronger – helped in the second half by having the extra man.

At the heart of everything Preston did was Browne, 
taking up the mantle from the suspended Ben Pearson.

They are different types of player and Browne started this one further up the pitch than Pearson would have.

Browne was required to drop into the holding role when Welsh went for his early bath, showing his midfield versatility.

Alex Neil has long banged the drum for what Browne can offer and the PNE manager was full of praise post-match for his latest show.

“I remember earlier in the season being unhappy with people who criticised Alan because I knew what he could bring,” said Neil.

“What is happening now is that he is bringing everything to the table which I would expect of him.

“His game in the last four matches has been incredible.

“What he needs to do is add goals to his game and in this one he hit the post and scored his header.

“His legs, athleticism, his aggression and his technical ability is improving.

“Alan will become a top player.”

A footnote to Browne’s good afternoon was the inclusion on the bench of 16-year-old Adam O’Reilly.

Browne and O’Reilly both started off at Ringmahon Rangers in Cork.

In Browne’s case, his move to PNE came via Cork City, with O’Reilly signed straight from Ringmahon 14 months ago on a four-year deal.

The teenager was needed on the subs list as midfield cover, with Pearson serving the second of a two-game suspension and Paul Gallagher ruled out injured.

It seems that just as Neil is getting close to a full squad, bans and injuries hit them.

Also missing from this one were Greg Cunningham and Tom Clarke, not forgetting too that Sean Maguire has been out since November.

Hence satisfaction that they held Wolves to a draw and pushed them all the way.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s men has arrived in Lancashire 12 points clear at the summit and having been beaten only four times in the league this term.

They left town certainly knowing they had been in a game, with them that little bit closer to an inevitable return to the Premier League.

Early on, Preston went at Wolves and had plenty of the ball without creating too much in the way of chances.

Tom Barkhuizen saw a shot blocked by Conor Coady, with Calum Robinson firing wide after coming inside off the left as the hosts counter-attacked.

At the other end, Ruben Neves – a £15.8m club record signing from Porto – drove a shot inches too high.

Neil felt that for all PNE’s spirit in the first half, they had lacked an attacking belief.

A few half-time pointers changed that, the hosts very much on the front foot at the start of the second period.

Browne collected a pass from Darnell Fisher in the 48th minute, moved into the box and hit a right-foot shot which came back off the far post – the effort clipping off a Wolves boot on the way.

He was not to be denied four minutes later, Fisher’s shot taken over the bar by Willy Boly’s challenge.

The resulting corner was delivered by Robinson deep beyond the far post where BROWNE rose above Barry Douglas to head home.

It was a lead short-lived, a sequence of events seeing the visitors get themselves back in the game.

When Ivan Cavaleiro went to ground running past Welsh on the halfway line, referee Rob Jones went to his pocket and pulled out a second yellow card followed by red.

It looked soft to say the least in real time and looking at the replay, contact looked minimal if at all.

Welsh had been booked in the 41st minute for a challenge on Diogo Jota and did look to be trying to avoid trouble when Cavaleiro went past.

PNE were still reorganising when Wolves equalised.

Cavaleiro powered through the Preston half and found Costa with a pass.

COSTA moved into the box, rode a sliding challenge from Ben Davies before shooting past Declan Rudd.

From then on, North End were solid in a 4-4-1 system, Barkhuizen on his own up top.

This was a worthy point, one not to be sniffed at.