Preston North End 2 Bournemouth 1 Dave Seddon's verdict: Home comforts at last for Ryan Lowe
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Back in December, Lowe made the perfect start to his job with a Deepdale victory over Barnsley. But of the six home games which followed, five ended in draws and one in defeat.
So to rediscover that winning feeling in front of the faithful was a mixture of relief and delight, and to do it against a Bournemouth side chasing automatic promotion was no mean feat.
Three points were achieved rather dramatically, Emil Riis firing home an 89th minute winner – leaving a North End game early in never advisable, Riis especially having a liking for a late goal.
Briefly they had trailed to a Cherries opener early in the second half, Cameron Archer quickly pulling them level which meant they could stick with Lowe’s game plan rather than having to chase parity for any length of time.
Mind you, there was a moment at 1-1 when the game very nearly swung the way of the visitors.
It was 90 seconds or so before Riis scored when Bournemouth won a corner, Alan Browne’s perfectly-timed sliding tackle taking the ball off Ryan Christie’s toe as he shaped to shoot.
That was only half the story, Nat Phillips met the corner with a header which had goal written all over it until Daniel Iversen threw his Danish frame across goal and reached out a glove to tip the ball away.
Iversen then had the added satisfaction of watching fellow countryman Riis do the business at the other end.
It was all a bit much for Scott Parker to handle, the Bournemouth boss taking his protests about a supposed foul in the build-up to the winning goal, a step too far.
Outmanoeuvred by Frankie McAvoy at the Vitality Stadium back in November and now outdone by Lowe, the former England international will have no fondness for PNE.
Parker was shown the red card by referee Matt Donohue, a punishment also bestowed on Bournemouth right-back Adam Smith – he’d been substituted but got himself caught up in the post-goal drama in the technical area.
Once North End had seen out more eight minutes of stoppage-time – six had been signalled but let’s not go there again – Lowe was able to celebrate properly on the Deepdale pitch.
The run and fist-pump has been a common sight on their travels, this time he got to do it twice, first in front of the Bill Shankly Kop which had been partly opened to home fans and then at the other end at the Alan Kelly Town End.
I don’t think you could begrudge Lowe’s men their victory. The statistics will show that it was the visitors who saw a lot more of the ball, 61% to PNE’s 39%, but the hosts did more with their smaller share.
They had 13 shots compared to Bournemouth’s eight, putting five of them on target as opposed to three at the other end.
Some of the visitors’ passing and movement was nice to watch but at times lacked purpose and wasn’t in areas where North End were going to be hurt by it.
In Dominic Solanke, the Cherries have a striker who cost £17m and has scored 20 Championship goals this campaign.
Yet he struggled to make any sort of impact in the game, the reason for that being the performance of Bambo Diaby.
This was the big fella’s full PNE debut having played a full few minutes at the end of the Coventry game the week before as a substitute.
Two years out of the game by reason of an anti-doping ban, Diaby had only had a 70-minute run for the reserves in a Central League game to work on his match fitness.
Needs must that Lowe needed to pitch him in, Liam Lindsay suspended and Patrick Bauer injured. It had been a toss-up between Diaby and Paul Huntington for that central spot in the back three.
Diaby got the nod and it was a good afternoon for him. A little shaky early doors, you did wonder in the first few minutes whether this might have been a bit too much for him.
We need not have worried. He was strong defensively and very comfortable with the ball at his feet.
After the final whistle Diaby went to his family in the stand for a hug, share with them what had been a big occasion for him.
Others stood out too, Iversen for his late save, Archer was lively up front, Daniel Johnson the creative spark in midfield and maker of the first goal.
Riis wasn’t the only key introduction from the bench although was the headline act on that front.
Ali McCann came on to replace Josh Earl and played at left wing-back, a role he slotted into very well despite being out of position.
PNE finished with Josh Murphy in the wing-back role on the opposite side, an attacking move with Lowe very much proactive with his changes.
The first half had seen North End struggle to start with before growing into the game, hence a feeling of frustration when they fell behind in the 50th minute.
Andrew Hughes and Iversen left a Jaidon Anthony cross for each other to deal with, Jamal Lowe nipping in to side-step Iversen and score.
It was an advantage which lasted only four minutes, Johnson carrying the ball down the right and picking out Archer with a low cross, the striker tucking a low shot from penalty spot-range into the net off the inside of the post.
North End counter-attacked for their winner, Ben Whiteman’s pass finding Alan Browne who knocked the ball on for Riis to chase.
He moved into the box and drove a powerful right-foot low finish into the far bottom corner.