Paul Gallagher’s second half hat-trick inspired Preston North End to a 5-2 victory over Shrewsbury Town at Deepdale.
The lively loanee ran the Easter Monday show and played a part in all five goals. He whipped the ball into the box for Lee Holmes to open the scoring in the 34th minute before Kevin Davies nodded a Gallagher corner into the path of Bailey Wright who launched an unstoppable shot into the net in the 40th minute.
Shrewsbury pulled a goal back before half-time but Gallagher’s second half hat-trick erased any chance of a Shrews upset.
Gallagher scored his first from open play latching on to a Stuart Beavon cross and smashing a first time shot into the back of the net.
Two super runs from young midfielder Alan Browne allowed Gallagher to convert two set-pieces and complete his hat-trick. Browne was brought down in the box and Gallagher converted the resulting spot-kick and in almost identical fashion the promising youngster was clipped on the edge of the area before Gallagher fizzed the free-kick into the far corner to seal PNE’s 11th home win of the season.
PNE manager Simon Grayson had made four changes to the side that lost 1-0 away at Brentford on Friday. Kevin Davies started up front as Craig Davies dropped to the bench, while John Welsh returned from suspension to partner Browne in central midfield.
Gallagher and Holmes returned to the starting XI after coming off the bench in Friday’s defeat.
Chris Humphrey and Neil Kilkenny joined top scorer Joe Garner - who returned from a calf injury - on the bench and Keith Keane was left out of the squad because of a knee injury
PNE looked lively in the opening stages as Beavon nodded a Gallagher cross wide.
In the fifth minute Browne stormed towards the penalty area, he found Davies in space and the recalled striker fed an overlapping Holmes in on the right hand side. Holmes drilled the ball across the face of goal but PNE could not get the final touch and turn the ball home in the fifth minute.
After some good interplay between Browne, Gallagher and Davies. Davies fed his strike partner Beavon but the striker could not get his shot away after Dominic Iorfa recovered for Shrewsbury and helped Weale smoother the shot in the 22nd minute.
After bossing the first half hour PNE finally took the lead thanks to a Holmes header. Davies pulled the ball back to Gallagher and the Scot whipped a fierce cross into the box. Holmes rose up at the back post and nodded the ball past Weale to give PNE the lead in the 34th minute.
PNE doubled their lead thanks to a superb Wright shot. Gallagher launched another dangerous ball into the box from a corner, Davies knocked the ball into the path of Wright and the Australian smashed an unstoppable first time rocket from the edge of the area into the back of the net in the 40th minute.
But minutes later the Shrews pulled a goal back as a rare error by Jack King allowed Shaun Miller to fire the ball past PNE keeper Declan Rudd. Rudd was livid with Scott Laird’s role in the build up to the 43rd minute goal and shouted at the left back as it was his poor throw-in that put King under unnecessary pressure.
Tom Clarke was substituted at half-time because of a calf injury, with Chris Humphrey replacing him at right-back..
PNE increased their lead in the 58th minute as Gallagher ran on to Beavon’s right wing cross and smashed the ball past Weale.
Browne went down under Joe Jacobson’s challenge and referee Nigel Miller pointed to the spot. Gallagher picked the ball up and coolly slotted the spot-kick home in the 62nd minute.
Shrewsbury substitute Tom Eaves sent the ball fizzing across the box minutes later but King was on hand to push the ball out of play at the near post.
Shrewsbury pulled another goal back thanks to all three substitutes. Browne was dispossessed in PNE’s half by Eaves who fed fellow substitute Paul Parry in on the right. Parry whipped the ball into the box and Shrews sub Luke Summerfield nodded the ball past Rudd in the 78th minute.
But minutes later Browne made up for his error. The 19-year-old Irishman powered towards the Shrewsbury goal before drawing a foul on the edge of the area. Gallagher stepped up to curl the subsequent free-kick past Weale and complete his hat-trick in the 81st minute.
Shrewsbury could have been reduced to ten men but the referee gave Ryan Woods a yellow card for a late challenge on Wright in the 86th minute.
PNE: Rudd, Laird, Clarke (Humphrey, 46), Wright, Davies (Garner, 64), Beavon, Holmes (Brownhill, 72), Gallagher, Welsh (c), King, Browne. Unused subs: Buchanan, C Davies, Kilkenny, Stuckmann
Shrewsbury Town: Weale, Jacobson (c), Iorfa (Summerfield, 64), Miller, Bradshaw (Eaves, 46), Taylor, Wildig (Parry, 46), Goldson, Woods, Mills, Hall. Unused subs: Anyon, Atajic, Flint, Fletcher.
Referee: Nigel Miller (County Durham)
Attendance: 9,639 (322 away)