Dave Seddon’s Preston North End Press View: Long-haul Bournemouth trip brought back happy memories

The odds were stacked so heavily against Preston North End winning at Bournemouth that they were in danger of falling over under the weight.

By Dave Seddon
Friday, 5th November 2021, 4:45 pm

A home win had to be on the cards at the Vitality Stadium – after all 15 teams had tried and failed to beat the Cherries in league action this season.

North End had also suffered from a touch of travel sickness when it came to Championship away games, losing four and drawing three of their seven road trips.

Quest TV set up camp at the ground to present their highlights show from the side of the pitch, ready to go with the angle of another Bournemouth win.

North End’s surprise victory in midweek brought joy to the travelling fans – some of them got carried away with their celebrations

Colin Murray ended up talking about a shock as the Lilywhites won 2-1 on the South Coast, a victory no one could begrudge them.

They had history of doing likewise, winning at the same ground 11 months ago and before that in 2016 in the League Cup.

The trip from Preston to Bournemouth is long, 272 miles along five motorways and three A-roads.

For the 307 PNE fans who made the trip, every mile would have seemed worth it as they were able to celebrate three very welcome points.

Goodness knows what time those who travelled back after the game got home but I’d wager their time in bed was only brief before it was time to get up for work or school on Thursday.

The North End faithful with a few years on the clock might remember their team doing something similar 21 years ago.

On October 24, 2000, PNE ventured to London to take on Jean Tigana’s Fulham in a midweek game. The Cottagers were top of the table having won 11 and drawn one of their first 12 league games.

Along came North End under David Moyes and won 1-0 at Craven Cottage, the winner coming direct from Michael Appleton’s corner.

You can certainly draw comparisons to Wednesday night as PNE upset the apple cart and took the three points back to Lancashire.

The first quarter of an hour or so wasn’t a great watch, Bournemouth having all the ball with Preston sat in their shape.

But where did the home side get with all that possession? Nowhere is the answer, Daniel Iversen’s only involvement in that opening spell to collect back-passes and launch them up field.

I did wonder whether this approach could last all game but as the first half went on, North End got more of a foothold.

The second half saw their confidence on the counter-attack rocket, the goals for Ben Whiteman and Ali McCann having similar characteristics.

It’s back-to-back wins now for PNE, achieved with the same starting line-up.

To think they are only four points off sixth place and 10 clear of third bottom is slightly bonkers, bearing in mind how gloomy the mood was.

There have been a couple of significant changes to the side for the wins against Bournemouth and, before that, Luton Town.

Tom Barkhuizen was restored to the side as the right wing-back for Luton’s visit, enabling Sepp van den Berg to stay on the right-hand side of the back three.

VDB had played well in the central role against Liverpool, a game he had Joe Rafferty outside of him.

Barkhuizen has given North End that extra attacking thrust.

He’s a naturally attacking player operating down the side, while over on the left it’s full-back by trade Josh Earl.

That has worked well, rather than it being two defenders at wing-back.

Steadily the North End starting XI has evolved this season and no doubt will change again as things go on.

Five players who started the opening game of the campaign against Hull also started on Wednesday.

Barkhuizen, Andrew Hughes, Ben Whiteman, Alan Browne and Emil Riis were the quintet to start both matches.

The six who started at Bournemouth and didn’t against Hull were Daniel Iversen, Van den Berg, Patrick Bauer, Earl, Sean Maguire and McCann.

In McCann’s case, being a St Johnstone player when the season kicked-off was a good reason for him not being in the PNE side!

Teams do develop and evolve, rarely does the side which starts a season go on to finish it.

In between August 7 and the present day, Jordan Storey, Ryan Ledson and Daniel Johnson played plenty of games.

They are currently warming the bench.

It will be interesting to see if Frankie McAvoy goes same again at Nottingham Forest or whether the shorter turnaround means a fresh set of legs or two.

What we won’t need to guess about is that the numbers in the away end at the City Ground will be greater than in midweek.

North End are on their third batch of sales for tickets for the away end, with around 2,000 set to make the trip to the East Midlands.

Forest away on a Saturday has been quite a rarity down the years, with it often being played in midweek.

Last season – on the final day – it was a Saturday but behind closed doors. It’s so good to be talking about away support and ticket sales again, following the lockout of fans for 16 months.

To see a very decent number at Bournemouth was brilliant, one or two of them not seeing the full 90 minutes, though, after some overexuberant celebration of the goals.

On the journey down I saw a minibus of PNE fans at the pay booths on the M6 toll.

A Dutch flag was in the back window with Sepp van den Berg’s name on.

Travelling to away games during the lockdown, that kind of thing was something I missed seeing.

A piece of paper with the attendance and away numbers scribbled on, no longer needed to be passed around the press box when the grounds were empty.

It’s good to be taking photos of the away end again, good to be talking about fans.