Preston North End supporters give their take on the come-from-behind 3-1 victory at Birmingham.
As far as away days go this was definitely one to remember as the away fans left St Andrews on Saturday elated following a resounding win at Birmingham.
It could be deemed as a game of two contrasting halves as although we were not under constant pressure we ended up going into the interval trailing by the odd goal having put in an average performance.
Whatever Alex Neil said or slipped into the half-time drinks had the desired effect as we pulverised a shell shocked home side in a second half we dominated completely.
All the three goals were well worked and typical of the free flowing football we have played this season under Neil – a style which the fans have warmed too.
The first goal which opened the floodgates was a crisp low shot scored by my man-of-the-match Daniel Johnson who instantly became a pantomime ex-villain with the home fans due to his over exuberant celebrations.
The result was put in no doubt following further goals from Jordan Hugill and Tom Barkhuizen and it was the final nail inBirmingham manager Harry Redknapp’s coffin as he was sacked following the game.
There is a renewed confidence around the club at the moment and the dismal end to last season is now a distant memory.
The squad is still young and developing but we are more than holding our own in a division where a lot of clubs have spent millions and for the moment these are good times and the next two home games should be worthy of a far higher attendance than we have seen at Deepdale so far this season.
A dominant second half performance by the Lilywhites saw them take Birmingham City to the sword and continued the tradition seen in recent years of opposition managers being subsequently sacked.
In this case, Harry Redknapp didn’t even have to wait “ … for the morning” before being given his marching orders. Little wonder, as this reinvigorated team continues to surprise the division with a tenacity that is a delight to see.
Mix in a blend of young, fast and skilful players with older, more savvy heads and a recipe for success is emerging. North End went into the break a goal down following an indifferent first half when they just didn’t seem able to get going. Too many times long punts forward went astray, as the team looked a shadow of the one that took Cardiff apart only a few days earlier.
Having said that, the hosts were restricted to routine chances until a mistake by Sean Maguire let in Maxime Colin to score on his debut.
As the second half got underway, Birmingham set off at a gallop, winning a corner from the kick-off as they tried to ease the pain of a series of straight defeats.
Cue the moment, cue the man, as Daniel Johnson put behind him a wayward first half to equalise with a peach of curling foot left shot. This was his first match since returning to the team following injury and that rusty first half was forgotten as he revelled in letting the Birmingham fans know that their boos for a former Villa player were going to be used as motivation fuel.
After that, it pretty much felt like it was all Preston as first Jordan Hugill and then Tom Barkhuizen added to the tally and put the game to bed. With such a good team performance, there was more than one candidate for star man – Daniel Johnson.
A very good week for North End culminating in the 3-1 win away at Birmingham City.
North End certainly didn’t get their own way in this game and up to the home side scoring we had looked second best all over the pitch against a Birmingham side clearly up for the game.
The Birmingham goal seemed to galvanise North End into action and we finished the first half on to top before giving an all action display in the second period when three goals in eleven minutes by Johnson, Hugill and Barkhuizen saw off the Blues and a few hours later cost Birmingham manager, Harry Redknapp, his job.
It was no more than North End deserved over the 90 minutes and sent the travelling 1,700 home in joyous mood after North End’s first win on the road since January 2 at Burton.
Birmingham were clearly up for this encounter after a poor start to the season even though they were without their two main strikers. I don’t think we expected the home side to start so quickly and it took North End a while to get into their stride. We were losing the battles in midfield and City were getting down the flanks far too often giving the North End defence plenty to do .
I wouldn’t say we were getting battered but we were second best in too many areas and it was no surprise when Colin scored from a narrow angle to give Harry’s boys the lead on 35 minutes. The goal seemed to engaged North End into a higher gear and for the final 10 minutes of the half we started to play and have more time on the ball and I am sure no-one in the away end had given the game up as the teams went in for the break.
I don’t know what Alex Neil said to the boys at half-time but they clearly came out in a very purposeful manner and took the game to Birmingham right from the kick off. We were faster, sharper and winning the ball in areas where we failed for most of the first period. Daniel Johnson picked the ball up in midfield and accelerated forward unchallenged before sidefooting an excellent equaliser past Stockdale in the home goal.
The ex Villa man didn’t half let the home crowd know about it as well and he picked up a yellow card for his troubles from Mr Stroud.
It wasn’t long before North End were in the lead as Hugill was played through in the inside right position and his slightly deflected shot hit the back of the net to send the travelling fans into orbit.
It wasn’t too long before the dancing on the away end turned to wild hysteria as Maguire put number three on a plate for Tom Barkhuizen who tapped in an unguarded goal to make it 3-1 and effectively secure the points. Seven point from nine in the last seven days represents an very good return for North End with the boys currently lying in the play off positions.
Of course nobody has ever been promoted in September and there is no doubt that we will hit a sticky patch at some time during the season. Nevertheless this has been a very encouraging start by Alex Neil and his boys and you have to admire the way the manager always adopts a positive attitude towards winning the game.
It was not an easy task to pick a man of the match on Saturday and the effort was reflected by how tired the team were at the end. I think my vote goes to Daniel Johnson who inspired the second half performance with a pivotal role in the middle of the park for a North End side who are clearly on the up.