John Roper’s Preston North End Fans’ Panel verdict: Did we deserve victory? Who cares!
The old golf saying of it’s not how, it’s how many, could well have been applied to North End’s performance at the Riverside on Tuesday evening as they appeared from nowhere to snatch the points from a slightly bemused Middlesbrough side.
To be fair it was a bit of a smash and grab but football is a game of 90 minutes and not 70, as Middlesbrough were made to pay the price for not taking the chances they had.
In fairness to North End we had two fairly good penalty shouts in the game, both turned away, but when McNair put the Smoggies one up after half an hour it looked odds against a Preston win.
However a double substitution with 20 minutes to go did the trick as goals from Ched Evans and Emil Riis sealed the game and North End held on quite comfortably to bring the three points back to Preston, after the manager must have been thinking he was about 20 minutes away from losing his job.
Two changes for North End from the side humiliated on Saturday by Cardiff, with Earl replacing Cunningham and Whiteman returning after suspension to replace Ledson.
It was North End who started the brighter in the opening salvos but very quickly Boro started to dominate the ball in midfield.
PNE had a big shout for a penalty when Riis was pushed in the back but all to no avail, with referee Woolmer having none of it.
Just after the half hour the home side took the lead when McNair had a free header from Howson’s corned on the left and with no one near he, put Chris Wilder’s men one up.
North End’s zonal marking was appalling and question were quite rightly asked after yet another concession from a set piece.
Preston tried to get back in the game but the home side looked the more likely to score the next goal as we trooped off one down at half-time.
No changes for North End at the break but the second half was only eight minutes old when Evans made his long awaited return to first team football at the expense of Sean Maguire.
Boro had a free-kick well saved by Iversen but North End were getting back into the game and the key moment of the whole 90 minutes came with 71 minutes on the clock.
Johnson and Sinclair replaced Barkhuizen and McCann, as North End went four at the back in the hope of getting back into the game.
Just a few minutes later a Whiteman corner from the right found Evans 12 yards out and the Welsh striker launched a superb header into the net to put North End level.
The 405 travelling fans were on their feet, and just four minutes later it was like a scene from Casualty with limbs all over the place as Riis capitalised on a poor mistake from Bamba and gleefully smashed home the winner for Frankie’s boys.
So Frankie lives to fight another day with some “inspired” substitutions giving North End all three points on a typical Teesside November evening.
Did North End deserve it? Possibly not, but they will take it with both hands and move on to the big Saturday lunchtime clash when Fulham are the visitors to Deepdale.
Many in the visitors’ section, were convinced they were about to witness the last hurrah of McAvoy’s tenure at Deepdale so most, if not all, were pleasantly surprised with the grandstand finish from the boys.
Let’s be honest, though, the result papered over a few cracks and, for 70 minutes, North End were second best and looked like getting beaten.
Nevertheless that game is now in the history books and if Preston can pull off an amazing double with a home win against the bookies’ favourites Fulham this weekend, well then we might be having a different conversation on Saturday afternoon. Let’s hope so.