John Roper’s Preston North End Fans’ Panel verdict: A massive result for Alex Neil

In terms of results this must rate as the Championship result of the season.

By John Roper
Thursday, 5th November 2020, 8:07 am

A team in the bottom half of the division goes away to the top of the league, who have won all four previous home games without conceding a goal, and turns them over 3-0.

Not only that we could afford to miss a penalty just after half time which would have knocked the stuffing out of many a team away against some high flyers.

The biggest conundrum in the Championship this season still remains to be answered though, just what makes Preston so good away and yet so poor at home?

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Brad Potts (centre) celebrates scoring PNE's third goal

North End played well in a busy first half but if you were having a bet at the break your money might just have been on Reading. However a second half performance of excellent counter-attacking and well organised defending saw North End scoop the loot once more in this craziest of starts to the season.

Manager Alex Neil made six changes to the starting line-up from the last game against Birmingham City with Huntington, Rafferty, Ledson, Potts, Sinclair and Riis coming in for Bauer, Hughes, Gallagher, Harrop, Barkhuizen and Stockley.

The game started at quite a frenetic pace but once North End settled down they were in the ascendancy for the first twenty minutes with the only blight being a booking for Darnell Fisher.

A free-kick from Alan Browne was the nearest we came, swiftly followed by a shot from Riis which went wide.

Reading finally got going midway through the first half and certainly looked the most likely to score, with Declan Rudd making an excellent one handed save from a header.

Rudd was called into action again as the Royals tried to get the opening goal but the half finished with North End getting themselves back in the game as both sides went in at the interval blowing from a busy but goalless first half.

No changes at the break for PNE but a penalty within three minutes of the restart after Riis had been flattened.

The usually very reliable Daniel Johnson put this one almost straight at the keeper and the spot-kick was easily saved.

Soon after Jordan Storey lost the ball in midfield but got back to put in a world-class last-ditch tackle and almost certainly stopped Reading taking the lead.

It was to be the turning point in the game as just a few minutes later a ball from Rafferty found Sinclair, who looked slightly offside, and the wide man slotted home in the centre-forward position.

North End were on a roll and just four minutes later Ledson put a superb ball through for Riis and as he went wrong side of the defender he fired home to open his PNE account.

In the last 20 minutes we had to defend well but always looked dangerous on the counter-attack. Reading huffed and puffed but it was North End who wrapped it up in stoppage time as Brad Potts came in from the back post top fire home Barkhuizen’s pin-point cross.

So it is back up to mid-table for North End after those two poor home defeats in this topsy-turvy campaign.

This result will certainly make one or two teams sit up in the Championship as North End have now taken all their 13 league points away from Deepdale.

This was a performance and a win built on team work and endeavour and the toughest job of the evening is picking the man of the match.

I have to say that I thought the spine of Huntington, Ledson and Riis were excellent, particularly Ledson, as we effectively played a 4-1-4-1 with the young midfielder in the anchor role.

However, my man of the match goes to the old War Horse who has never let North End down when he has come into the side and that is Paul Huntington.

This was a massive result for Alex Neil and the boys and if we can continue this amazing away form at Rotherham on Saturday then we maybe looked forward to an international break in the top half of the table.