Alex Neil admitted he was going to take Paul Gallagher off before his decisive intervention in Preston’s big win at Middlesbrough.
After Daniel Ayala had been sent off for his challenge on Brandon Barker just after the hour mark, Gallagher stepped up to fire home the resulting free-kick for his 100th senior goal to make it 1-1 on the night.
Jayden Stockley then took his place on the field 15 minutes from time and headed home the winner on 81 minutes as PNE moved within two points of the play-offs with a sixth straight away win.
“I was tempted to take Paul off,” Neil said.
“But he’s just got that much quality that when I kept looking up he’d send over a 60-yard pass and it’s ‘right, he’s staying on for another couple of minutes’.
“Paul’s got that habit where he looks tired and then he gets the ball and he seems to glide and suddenly he doesn’t look tired anymore.
“It got to the stage where he was injured though.
“His set piece delivery is key for us and his quality in terms of finding people further up the pitch is key for us.
“But there are games where we need a bit of extra energy in that middle zone.
“We tried to do that and it worked in our favour.”
Stockley made a real impact when he came on, converting his second North End goal after Andrew Hughes’ initial shot had looped into the air.
“I thought he was terrific when he came on,” said Neil.
“He won every header and that’s the most dominant he’s been in the air since he’s been here.
“I was really pleased with him and had a good chat with him after the game.
“He should certainly be really pleased with his contribution while he was on the pitch.”