First versus 16th, the hosts top of the Championship and boasting a 100% home record without conceding a goal.
PNE had won only one of 14 previous league visits to the Madejski Stadium, so a home banker surely? Not really.
This is 2020/21 when North End have flipped football tradition on its head. Awful at home, so good on the road. This result would not have surprised many Preston fans to say the least.
They took Reading apart in the second half, scoring twice in three minutes and a third in stoppage time.
The goals came after a penalty miss from Daniel Johnson, normally deadly from the spot.
Scott Sinclair, Emil Riis and Brad Potts saved Johnson’s blushes by finding the net, in doing so achieving a fourth successive away win.
The only time they haven’t taken three points on their league travels this season is the 2-2 draw at Norwich, a game they led in until the last five minutes.
The away record meant Alex Neil had been quite confident going into the game and it wasn’t a case of being wise after the event.
Neil said: “We are capable of going and beating anybody anywhere. We beat Brentford 4-2, we should have beaten Norwich. We won at QPR and beat Huddersfield. Now we have come here and beaten Reading.
“When I looked at the teams before the game I thought we had as good a chance of beating Reading as we will beating Rotherham on Saturday.”
This was classic away-day North End.
They pressed high to stop Reading playing out from the back, when the hosts had a goalkick Riis and Johnson were on the edge of the box ready to close down the two defenders stood with the goalkeeper.
When the hosts were forced to go long from the back, it was all about winning the second ball and launching attacks from that.
The defence held firm when Reading found some forward rhythm, the back four one thrown together due to injuries – Paul Huntington and Jordan Storey flanked by Darnell Fisher and Joe Rafferty.
At the other end, Riis used his pace to cause the hosts all sorts of problems.
Tom McIntyre won’t forget the evening he spent trying to keep the Dane in check.
The centre-half tripped Riis for the penalty, then lost track of the striker when he ran through to score PNE’s second goal.
Johnson’s miss from the spot was his first in open play – only in a shoot-out against Bournemouth in the League Cup in September 2015 had he been unsuccessful from 12 yards.
He put this one too close to Rafael Cabral, the ball hitting the keeper’s legs.
It wasn’t to have any affect on the outcome as North End scored in the 65th and then the 68th minutes to take the game by the scruff of the net.
Rafferty’s powerful tackle on Michael Olise 40 yards out created the opener.
The ball broke forward to Sinclair who took the ball on a stride and knocked it past the keeper.
Ryan Ledson, who played the holding role so well, was the creator of the second.
From deep in his own half he lifted the ball over the top of the Reading defence.
Riis (above) gave McIntyre a yard’s head start before he got on the wrong side of him to run clear and shoot low into the net.
North End defended that two-goal lead without any real close calls, Reading seeing more of the ball but hitting a green wall impressively marshalled by Huntington.
Sixty seconds of added-on time had been played when PNE scored their third. The ball was played out of defence up to Riis who turned it out to substitute Tom Barkhuizen.
The winger hared down the right-hand channel into the box and squared a pass to Potts.
It was slightly behind the midfielder but he managed to sweep a finish into the roof of the net.
As an all-round display, this was the best of the season without doubt. Clean sheet, three goals, job done.
Get the lucky green kit washed and ironed in time for Rotherham on Saturday.
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