John Roper's fans' panel verdict: Preston North End finished on a high

Trust North End to save the best till last with what was probably our best performance of the season at Deepdale.

By John Roper
Sunday, 8th May 2022, 12:30 pm

A goal from Alan Browne and a hat-trick from Emil Riis saw us comprehensively beat a Boro side with play off ambitions before the start of the game.

The fact that the visitors had it all to play for made this a real game and not an end-of-season jaunt as some had predicted.

PNE were 100% at it for the entire match and once Alan Browne had opened the scoring you never really felt that North End were in any danger of losing.

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Preston North End's Alan Browne celebrates scoring his side's first goal

Quicker passing and no-nonsense defending saw Ryan Lowe`s boys end the season on a real high at Deepdale after the disappointment of the derby defeat to Blackburn just two weeks ago.

It all left North End in 13th place in the Championship final table with a very respectable total of 64 points to their name.

Lowe made just one change from last weeks win at Barnsley with Bambo Diaby coming in for Patrick Bauer who was given some more recovery time having been withdrawn at half time last Saturday.

Preston started well and so did the visitors to be fair and it was obvious the game meant plenty to both sides.

Riis had an effort early on but just after the 20-minute mark we took the lead when a cross from Potts found Browne in the box and the captain made no mistake with a classy finish.

It was all North End now and with 10 minutes to the break, Riis put North End two up when he cut in from the left and fired home, the ball taking a deflection off a Middlesbrough defender.

North End continued to pile on the pressure and further chances from Johnson and McCann almost sent us in at half time three up but we had to make do with two.

Middlesbrough must have had a rollicking at half time from Chris Wilder as they came out with real intent and purpose in the opening minutes of the second half.

Poor defending from North End saw Tavernier pull a goal back after less than three minutes and for a few minutes it looked game on, much to the delight of the 5,688 travelling fans from the North East.

Preston were having none of it though and when Archer put Riis through the big striker made it three with a delightful chip over the visiting keeper and into the net.

From then on it was all North End and when Riis completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot after75 minutes it was all over, with Boro also down to 10 men.

The biggest cheer of the afternoon came with ten minutes to go when Paul Huntington replaced Diaby, the Cumbrian Cannavaro making his 306th and final appearance for the club he has graced for 10 years.

So the 2021-22 season came to an end with North End finishing the campaign with two victories to end the season on a high.

There is no doubt the close season will be one of significant changes off the field with quite a number of the current squad being released and several new players coming in.

The three loanees will go back to their parent clubs and whether any return we shall have to wait and see.

Daniel Iversen had a clean sweep of the player of the year trophies and few of the Deepdale faithful would argue with that.

I think the manager will have breathed a huge sigh of relief at the completion of this term as he can now really start to get to grips with things and make the squad much more like the one he wants.

Good luck to the players leaving North End and thank you for your efforts at Deepdale, but a special thank you to Hunts, a giant of a player both on and off the field.