‘Hats off to the manager’ – John Roper’s Preston North End Fans’ Panel verdict

This became a bit of a nailbiter to be honest but, once again, North End showed just how good they can be on the road with an absolutely fantastic three points at the Vitality Stadium.

By John Roper
Wednesday, 2nd December 2020, 8:00 am

One up at the break, PNE looked to be cruising when they were three goals to the good with just 25 minutes left but the Cherries came fighting back to set up a real squeaky- bum last 15 minutes. Make no mistake, North End were worth this win playing some excellent football for just over an hour and although we conceded two in the last 25 minutes I didn’t think it took a great deal off the performance.

Every man in green played their part in this victory in a real team effort only marred by the third goalscorer, Patrick Bauer, leaving the pitch on a stretcher near the end.

Just how long Bauer will be out is uncertain but he will certainly be a big miss for North End.

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Bournemouth’s Dominic Solanke and Preston North End’s Alan Browne

Manager, Alex Neil, made three changes to the team comprehensively beaten at Watford on Saturday with Alan Browne, Joe Rafferty and Ryan Ledson coming in to replace Storey, Riis and Potts.

Preston reverted to their usual formation of 4-2-3-1 with Sean Maguire up front on his own.

We started the half quite comfortably with the hosts playing plenty of nice football but North End countering and seeing off the initial Bournemouth burst.

In fact North End took the lead after 16 minutes when good work from Maguire sent Daniel Johnson down the left wing and a superb ball in found Tom Barkhuizen at the back post to slot home.

The home side tried to force the equaliser but I thought Preston were the better side certainly for the first half- an-hour and although the ball was in a couple of dangerous areas in the North End box, we saw the first half out very well and went in deservedly one up at the break.

PNE came out in confident mood and it took us just four minutes to double the lead with a sublime goal from long range by Sinclair, who just gently caressed the ball over the head of the Bournemouth keeper and into the net.

The home side tried to build pressure but with just under 25 minutes left on the clock North End were three up when Johnson, on the right, found Bauer at the back post and the big German scrambled the ball into the net.

Surely that was enough but when Stanislas executed a pinpoint free-kick five minutes later the PNE nerves started to show a little.

We looked to be heading for a comfortable win but with four minutes left Surridge headed home after North End should have had a free-kick for handball.

There were six additional minutes added and with about six minutes more added on for the injury to Bauer, it was the 102nd minute when referee Gavin Ward blew his whistle and North End had held on for the points.

I’m sure most of us have given the manager some grief in the last few weeks and months regarding performances but hats off to Alex Neil on this performance.

The high press and one-touch football caught Bournemouth on the hop a little and allowed North End plenty of space in the middle of the park.

I thought Pearson, Johnson and Sinclair were outstanding for North End and we looked better with a back four, albeit a makeshift one with Alan Browne taking the place of Darnell Fisher.

However, for these excellent away performances to mean anything in terms of the league we have got to start making our home games count as, on the evidence so far this season, the away form will look after itself.

The next four games are Wycombe, Middlesbrough, Luton and Barnsley and now is the moment for Preston to get this home form sorted and put us in a position in the Championship that our away form deserves.