Ben Pearson’s goal likely to remain a rarity for Preston North End

Ben Pearson scores for Preston against Barnsley at Deepdale
Ben Pearson scores for Preston against Barnsley at Deepdale

Alex Neil says he can excuse Ben Pearson not appearing on the scoresheet very often due to his key holding role in Preston’s midfield.

Pearson scored his first goal for three years in PNE’s 5-1 victory against Barnsley at Deepdale last Saturday.

He sprinted from the edge of his own box as North End broke upfield through Tom Barkhuizen.

When Barkhuizen drew the keeper and rolled the ball to the far post, Pearson was there to lift it into the roof of the net.

His only previous goal in a first-team game for North End came on October 1, 2016, against Aston Villa.

That was before Neil came to the club, hence the PNE boss enjoyed pulling Pearson’s leg about his goal record.

Neil said: “After the game I asked Pearo when he had last scored and had it been when he played Under-17s!

“It was nice for him to score and the fact he doesn’t get too many goals is that we ask him to do a specific job for the team which he does very well.

“He’s capable of bursting through the middle of the pitch but when he does that it can leave us vulnerable.

“Pearo is best at smelling danger and nullifying it, that is what we want him to do.

“But against Barnsley when there was the chance to commit, he picked the right time to go.

“With that goal you saw the hunger of the team to get after the ball.

“Tom Barkhuizen showed wonderful pace to get down the side and Pearo covered so much ground to get into the box and score.”

Pearson’s two Preston goals came 105 games apart.

During two loan spells with Barnsley in his Manchester United days, the midfielder found the net three times.

North End are the highest scorers in the Championship with 23 goals, two ahead of West Bromwich Albion who top the table.

Before the Barnsley game they were joint top scorers with Fulham but had created fewest chances.

“For the first couple of years I was here, we were No.1 for attacks in the league but that was because we were quite direct and had runners off the ball,” said Neil.

“It is the quality of chances which is key for me, you want them in front of goal and close in if possible.

“For a lot of our goals last year, Alan Browne had a goal of the season competition running himself.

“Now we are working the ball more to get into better positions to make good chances.”

Daniel Johnson tops the Preston scoring charts with seven league goals, four of those penalties.

Josh Harrop has netted five goals – three in the league and two cup – Sean Maguire has three in the league.