Dave Seddon's verdict: Preston North End 2 Charlton Athletic 1 - Giving the opposition a head start for once doesn't hinder the Lilywhites

Preston North End came up with the winning formula for the first time in a month but still had a familiar obstacle to climb over in doing so.

Sunday, 19th January 2020, 6:00 am
Patrick Bauer heads Preston North End's winner against Charlton Athletic at Deepdale

They completed a first league double of the season in beating Charlton Athletic, ending a run of five Championship games without a victory.

With Norwich City having beaten them in the FA Cup in among that sequence, it hasn’t been difficult to detect the feeling of unease among the PNE faithful.

Such feeling intensified when the Addicks waltzed through to take the lead inside five minutes.

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Preston midfielder Josh Harrop challenges Charlton's Ben Dempsey

That has been the theme for the last four matches at Deepdale, with Charlton following the example of Reading, Middlesbrough and Norwich in going in front.

On Saturday, unlike in the three other meetings, North End turned things round and dug out a victory.

It was deserved too, even if they did make it harder than it needed to be by missing a few chances to increase the winning margin.

That is splitting hairs though, the need being to put three points on the board whatever the manner it was achieved in.

Scott Sinclair on his home debut for Preston against Charlton

It kept the Lilywhites closely in touch with the top six, something Alex Neil has always stressed the importance of during the dip in form.

There was almost a sense of inevitability about two of the goalscorers in this game, if not all three.

Andre Green put Charlton ahead less than three weeks after his loan stay with PNE was cut short.

The winger was loaned straight back out by Aston Villa to the South London side and what timing on Green’s part to net his first goal in an Addicks shirt.

Preston left-back Joe Rafferty challenges in the air with Charlton striker Josh Davison

North End’s winner came from former Charlton man Patrick Bauer, the centre-half having swapped clubs during the summer.

Bauer’s last-gasp strike at Wembley had fired the Addicks to promotion in May’s League One play-off final.

Six months on, he powered a header into the back of their net to settle this game.

In between was a lovely finish from Josh Harrop which brought PNE level.

Josh Harrop is congratulated by Darnell Fisher and Alan Browne after equalising for Preston against Charlton

Harrop had scored in his last two games and with his tail up, it perhaps did not come as a surprise that he netted here.

Given the No.10 role for the first time in a while rather than joining in from the wing, Harrop revelled in the room he found.

His goal, one curled home from the edge of the box with his left foot, was a stand-out moment.

Other aspects of his play deserve highlighting though.

He went looking for the ball, even dropping as deep into the space in front of his centre-halves to get possession.

When PNE trailed, Harrop was the one to try and take the game by the scruff of the neck to inspire better.

He got the equaliser in some style and then added an assist to his day’s work by sending over the corner which Bauer put away.

The contribution of Daniel Johnson in that middle area near Harrop shouldn’t be overlooked either.

Johnson was back in the fray for the first time since December 2 and it was such a boost to see him on the pitch.

His absence due to strained knee ligaments had stretched over nine matches. For long spells it looked like he had never been away, slotting back in with ease.

Only in the closing minutes when cramp set in did seven weeks out catch-up with Johnson.

His return was a timely one with both Ben Pearson and Paul Gallagher missing. Pearson had been taken ill with a sickness bug the day before the game.

A groin injury which had dogged Gallagher of late, was too much for him this time.

So the midfield was made up of Alan Browne, Johnson and Harrop, a ‘six, eight, ten’ combination using continental numbering.

Browne was the deeper of the three, Johnson further up with Harrop at the top end behind striker Sean Maguire.

With how deep Charlton dropped to protect their advantage, at times Browne was able to push on from his holding role.

An attacking-looking starting XI, which saw Scott Sinclair given a home debut, gave the hope that PNE could swarm all over the visitors from the start and buck the trend of conceding first.

Such hope was dashed in the fifth minute, Charlton getting down Preston’s right side to score.

Alfie Doughty did much of the damage with a strong run which took him past Darnell Fisher and to the byline.

He pulled the ball low to the near post for Green to tuck a finish past Declan Rudd.

As he hadn’t been seen in a Preston shirt from October 22 onwards, there was a certain curiosity from the home fans in the 21-year-old winger.

It was good movement from Green to get into the scoring position and a tidy finish, his joy at getting off the mark for Charlton evident by his knee slide celebration.

From then on he was quiet until his 68th minute substitution, little service getting up to the visitors front line for him to shine further.

You have to think that the arrival of Sinclair is an upgrade on Green on Preston’s left side.

Perhaps though, there will always be a ‘what if’ tag which is attached to Green as far as the PNE fans are concerned.

Some used his goal as a stick to beat Neil with, however things were to swing in their favour as the game went on.

Harrop’s equaliser was a joy, Fisher and him working the ball down the right.

Collecting Fisher’s return pass which gave him the room to move inside, Harrop curled a left-foot shot from the edge of the box across goal into the far top corner.

That goal came just beyond the half-hour mark, with the winner scored seven minutes into the second half.

Harrop turned provider, his corner from the right finding the run of Bauer who jumped to send a downward header into the net.

Tom Barkhuizen, David Nugent, Maguire and Sinclair all had chances to stretch the lead but let’s just be thankful for the victory. It was needed.