Louis Moult’s fifth goal of the season handed Preston North End a big three points at the City Ground on Saturday.
READ MORE >>>> Nottingham Forest 0-1 Preston North End - As it happened
Below we take a look at the main talking points.
Moult is taking his chance
All Louis Moult asked for was a chance and now he’s got it, he’s taking it. Having scored key goals off the bench this was his first in the Championship when selected from the start. A classic Moult goal, he slid into convert Lukas Nmecha’s cross from close range after Paul Gallagher’s corner had been fired into the Manchester City loanee at the near post. It wasn’t just the goal though, a fifth of the season being coupled with some fine all-round forward play that we’ve become used to. He linked the play well and got through a serious amount of work, even when PNE were on the back foot in the first half. Will have been disappointed to have been replaced with 73 minutes on the clock as Alex Neil looked to sure things up but the striker’s stock is only rising.
Rudd has great powers of recovery
It was the kind of error that would have broken some players and dropping him may have done just that. But Declan Rudd kept his place at the City Ground with Chris Maxwell again left waiting in the wings. There were plenty of early touches with PNE up against it but Rudd did what he had to,do, helping Tom Clarke deny Matty Cash in on goal on one occasion. In the second period Rudd was at the heart of things as Forest pressed late on for a leveller. There were a couple of moments where he punched when catching looked like the safer option but his save from a Daryl Murphy header that looked to be heading in the top corner was out of the top drawer.
Johnson’s return a more than welcome one
There was some rare good injury news ahead of kick-off with Daniel Johnson back in the starting line-up way ahead of schedule. Supposed to be out well into the new year, the midfielder’s thigh healed far quicker than expected and he was thrust straight back into action at the City Ground. Having impressed further forward during his previous run in the side, Johnson was deeper than Alan Browne who played off the front with Ben Pearson missing out once again. Alex Neil will have spotted something in his pre-match preparation but DJ was unable to impose himself on the game as he would have liked, Forest moving the ball around very nicely in the first half. But a late change as PNE looked to make sure of the points saw him move further forwards where he did an excellent job in helping kill the game. The fact he got through as much as he did is a minor miracle in itself.
But injury problems show no sign of ending
Despite the good news on DJ is was another day and another injury for North End. On a day where North End relied on the counter attack, the pace and directness of Brandon Barker was a good weapon to have. But his afternoon lasted just the 25 minutes, a break forward ending with him pulling up with an apparent hamstring problem. It was a familiar sight for North End fans and also a familiar feeling for Barker who has a history of injuries in that area. Now it’s again a waiting game to see what the extent of the injury is. Surely this has to end at some point?
Nmecha can more than do a job down the right
With Barker pulling up, it was another Manchester City loanee who took his place as Lukas Nmecha was asked to do a job from the right. It’s more new ground for the Etihad prospect as his education continues at Deepdale. His first intervention saw a shot head into the side netting but his second quickly after was a poor cross after a Forest error. He had work to do going in the other direction too and after a sliced clearance landed on the roof of Rudd’s net Nmecha showed willingness to track and do the dirty work. It’s his quality in the final third that will make or break him at Deepdale though and he put the ball exactly where Louis Moult needed it for PNE’s opener. He can certainly more than do a job down the right and may have to given the current run of injuries.