Dave Seddon's verdict: Preston North End 3 Derby County 0 - Frankie McAvoy is auditioning well for the PNE job full-time
Preston North End will wait until the end of the season to appoint their next manager, buying time to assess the market and look at the job Frankie McAvoy is doing as interim head coach
You’ve got to say so far, so good for McAvoy, for the manner in which he has steadied the ship at Deepdale and guided PNE into calmer waters following Alex Neil’s departure a month ago.
Two wins, two draws and one defeat – the blip being the 5-0 trouncing by Brentford – is McAvoy’s record to date.
Tuesday night’s victory against Derby County added goals to the equation, Ben Whiteman, Ched Evans and Ryan Ledson finding the net.
Before then in McAvoy’s tenure, they’d only had Brad Potts’ late equaliser against Norwich and the own goal at Swansea to show in the net gains column.
North End effectively made themselves safe in turning over Wayne Rooney’s men, at the same time leaving the former England skipper looking anxiously over his shoulder at the bottom three.
Derby could well go down should Rotherham get their act together below them.
The Rams have in the past been a tough nut to crack for the Lilywhites.
Not this season though. They completed a league double over Derby having beaten them 1-0 at Pride Park on Boxing Day. Throw in for good measure September’s 2-1 win at the same venue in the Carabao Cup.
Preston hadn’t won this fixture at Deepdale since December 2008, so it was about time they did.
A 3-0 win looks pretty emphatic but they didn’t have it all their own way.
Derby came out of the traps well and it could be argued North End scored slightly against the run of play when Whiteman put them in front.
Post-match McAvoy could not emphasis how key that goal was on the basis that Derby don’t chase games well.
They made a decent fist at doing that in the opening quarter of an hour or so of the second half, giving the hosts plenty of defensive work to do.
Hence Andrew Hughes and Daniel Iversen must be mentioned in dispatches at this juncture for combining to keep the visitors out.
At 1-0 in the 53rd minute, Hughes threw himself in the way of Martyn Waghorn’s shot at the far post to block it.
The follow-up from George Edmundson had lots of power behind it but Iversen dived to glove it away.
North End pushed on to finish strongly, Evans scoring with 18 minutes left and then Ledson saw a free-kick travel through a crowded box and into the net in the 88th minute.
McAvoy has firmly settled on a 3-5-2 in order to get the results needed and again it worked on Tuesday night.
He slotted Liam Lindsay back into the defence, moving Sepp van den Berg out to the right wing-back slot.
That was key in it allowed Tom Barkhuizen a move right up the pitch to keep Evans company in attack.
Barkhuizen had a good game, playing a part in the first two goals and twice being denied by saves from keeper David Marshall.
PNE’s best performer on the night was Alan Browne though, an all-action midfield display from the skipper catching the eye. The cameo role from Brad Potts was very decent too.
He came on at 1-0 with Derby on top and helped turn momentum the other way.
Whiteman gave Preston an 18th minute lead, the goal’s origins being down the right hand side of the pitch.
Barkhuizen slid a pass down the channel for Browne to chase and take to the byline, lifting a cross into the middle which Whiteman met with a header which Marshall could only help into the net.
Whiteman gave way to Potts a few minutes before North End got their second goal in the 72nd minute.
It started with some work by Barkhuizen on the left, his pass inside playing Potts into the box.
He drove a cross into the middle which Marshall dived to push out. It fell to Evans on the volley eight yards out and he didn’t need a second invitation.
The third goal saw Ledson take a free-kick right-footed from the left-wing. It stayed low, Browne jumped over it in the box and in it went without anyone getting a touch.
North End move on to play Coventry City at Birmingham's ground on Saturday, another chance for McAvoy to audition for the job full-time and a chance for more points to be put on the board.
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