Dave Seddon’s Preston North End Press View: A long-awaited victory

Any victory has to be enjoyed but there are some wins which just give that extra bit of satisfaction.

By Dave Seddon
Friday, 28th January 2022, 4:45 pm
Updated Friday, 28th January 2022, 4:47 pm

Preston North End’s 2-0 success at West Bromwich Albion was one such game which won’t be forgotten for quite a while.

Put to one side for a moment that it was the Baggies’ first home league defeat of the season, put to one side just for now how well PNE played.

Put to one side too that it was achieved with a first clean sheet since October.

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Ryan Lowe at the end of the game on Wednesday

The stand-out for me was that three points were gained at a ground which has been a notoriously difficult place for the Lilywhites to play over the years.

To have lost 11 visits to The Hawthorns on the bounce was bordering on the ridiculous.

Not since a 0-0 draw there in October 1980 had North End came back from the district of Sandwell with anything to show for their efforts.

Even that stalemate only earned them a replay in the League Cup.

They drew the replay at Deepdale, and guess what? It earned them a second replay back on Albion soil.

The 2-1 defeat after extra time was the first of that run of 11 defeats.

You had to go back to September 1973 for North End’s last away win over WBA, a 2-0 victory in which Alex Bruce and Mel Holden found the net.

Just why is it that at some grounds you can’t buy three points for love or money? Yet at others, a win is a regular passenger on the coach journey home?

Perhaps in the case of PNE and Albion, the latter have just always been one of the top dogs in the division in the seasons when the two teams have met.

My first experience of watching a North End defeat at The Hawthorns was back in 1992 – a 3-0 loss towards the end of the season.

There was that painful Gentry Day 4-1 reverse in April 2019 when it looked like Alex Neil would swap the visitors’ technical area for the home one straight after.

Hence Wednesday night’s win feeling that bit special and it was totally deserved.

North End away victories tend to be followed by bitter comments from opposition fans complaining about tactics, time-wasting, the weather, the price of fish.

There was none of that from the Baggies’ faithful this time, their ire trained firmly on head coach Valerien Ismael and his up-and-at-them approach.

Fifth in the division with a strong squad they might be, but the Albion faithful want to see some football played.

North End were the side who wanted to get the ball down and play, once they bypassed the hosts’ press with a more direct approach than they’d previously shown under Ryan Lowe.

They were tactics which Lowe got spot on, as he reasoned in the press conference why expose the back three to an Albion side who press the ball better than anyone in the division?

In most other games Lowe will want to see PNE playing out from the back when the chance arises.

Horses for courses though, certain games call for different approaches.

It was great to see new boy Cameron Archer get off the mark at the first time of asking.

When a striker is brought in to score goals, the sooner they start doing so the better.

Aston Villa loanee Archer took all of 11 minutes to get himself going, heading PNE’s second goal.

It was Archer’s goal which summed up well what Lowe wants from his team going forward. When they won the ball inside their own half, North End got bodies up the pitch quickly.

Alan Browne ran with the ball, Greg Cunningham went on the overlap and had the shot which the keeper parried – Archer in there for the rebound.

Who was next to Archer in the six-yard box? Brad Potts. He had sprinted from the right wing-back area to join the attack.

With Cunningham being a big part of the build-up on the left, that is where Lowe wants his wing-backs to be when PNE go forward.

I’m not sure of the exact numbers of Preston fans at the game but it was the loudest following of North Enders for a good while.

Since fans were allowed back into stadiums, some clubs have gone a touch Secret Squirrel over publishing attendances and giving a breakdown of home and away fans. There were certainly more than 1,000 PNE supporters in the away section on Wednesday.

They had plenty to sing about as the evening went on, the scenes when Archer scored a touch chaotic!

There was the Lowe fist-pump after the final whistle, that the final act of celebration as the pitch emptied.

Bringing in Archer at the start of the week was the latest part of squad-shaping.

The focus had been on reducing the numbers and once Archer was in, the movement out continued with Josh Harrop going to Fleetwood Town on loan.

Will Archer be the only incoming or do Lowe and Peter Ridsdale have another one up their sleeve ahead of Monday night’s deadline?

Every manager wants a new striker and Lowe has got his in the shape of Archer.

There’s Bambo Diaby waiting quietly in the wings, the centre-half having been training at Euxton since November.

You wonder if Lowe sees other areas of the squad as being a priority in terms of strengthening?

Would he like a more specialised wing-back given they are a big working part of his system?

Harrop going out, so too Jamie Thomas, could free up some space on the wage bill to do business.

Wind the clock back to Harrop’s first season after signing from Manchester United, would anyone have envisaged him now being on loan in League One for a second time?

There’s a player in there, one that needs a run of starts and a touch of belief in himself restored. With next season being the last of his PNE contract, this loan move carries great importance.