John Roper’s Preston North End Fans’ Panel verdict: Spirit shown offers hope of play-off spot again

Like many others, I suspect, I was beginning to write the obituary on North End’s season with just 12 minutes to go in the South Yorkshire rain and North End a goal down.

Thursday, 9th July 2020, 8:00 am

Enter Jayden Stockley and Scott Sinclair and things began to change in dramatic style on an awful night in Sheffield.

Goals from Sinclair, Stockley and Potts gave North End the 3-1 win but just what impact a linesman’s flag, with the score at 1-1, will have on our season remains to be seen.

Preston should have put the game away in the first half in all honesty, with enough chances to win two games never mind one.

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Brad Potts makes it 3-1 to PNE

But when the home side took the lead just before the hour it looked like the dream was going to be over for another year.

Alex Neil has juggled the pack many times since restart but his nap hand of five subs did the trick and the inquest on the season is put on hold at least till Saturday.

The game started with the manager making two changes to the starting line-up from Huddersfield on Saturday, with Jordan Storey coming in along with Sean Maguire in place of Brad Potts and the injured Josh Harrop.

PNE started right on the front foot and Bauer should have done better with a header as early as the second minute.

At the other end The Owls hit the bar but five minutes later another Bauer header went begging as North End started to assert their authority on proceedings. Maguire and Barkhuizen were certainly causing the Wednesday defence problems and both had good chances to give Preston the lead but again the finishing was poor.

Wednesday did come back into it after the water break with Storey making an outstanding last-ditch block ten minutes from the break.

At the other end Barkhuizen should have given us the lead but somehow the teams went in level when it could easily been 4-1 to Preston.

The second half started with Sheffield in the ascendancy and North End were not influencing the game anywhere near as much as they did in the first half.

Gradually the home side put more and more pressure on until in the 58th minute that pressure told when Murphy score – albeit with the help of a good bounce.

Preston heads went down for a while and the game became scrappy but when Sinclair and Johnson came on things started to happen again for North End.

Stockley and Potts soon followed from the bench, and when Stockley headed on for Sinclair to equalise, it was ‘game on’.

Wednesday thought they had taken the lead again but an eagle-eyed assistant had spotted an infringement and the header was chalked off.

It was the turning point in the game as Stockley fired PNE into the lead with just three minutes to go.

The home side threw everything forward for an equaliser but it was Brad Potts who sealed the deal in the sixth minute of injury time with a well-taken effort.

This was North End’s first win back after lockdown, and it had to be, because anything less than victory would have seen the end of our challenge for this season and more disappointment for the fans.

Alex Neil juggled the pack this way and that way to find a winning formula but on this occasion it was a late route-one approach and a cup-tie spirit that saw us eventually take the points and keep the season alive.

We are just three points behind Cardiff City, who are in sixth, and with Cardiff playing Fulham on Saturday it makes the game at home to Nottingham Forest a huge game for North End.

This victory shouldn’t mask the fact that we are desperate for a goalscorer of some note in the squad but at least the boys proved they have some fighting spirit left in them by succeeding in this must-win game and at least keeping us in with a shout.