Dave Seddon's verdict: Preston North End 3 Huddersfield Town 1 - Fast starts proving key for PNE

PNE striker Jayden Stockley wins a header
PNE striker Jayden Stockley wins a header

Preston North End were quick out of the blocks – and not for the first time this season – on their way to victory over Huddersfield Town at Deepdale.

It is worth being in your seat early when watching the Lilywhites, fives times they have scored in the opening 11 minutes in 2019/20.

Paul Gallagher and Patrick Bauer celebrate Preston's third goal against Huddersfield at Deepdale

Paul Gallagher and Patrick Bauer celebrate Preston's third goal against Huddersfield at Deepdale

In 11 of their 16 league games, they’ve scored in the first half as Alex Neil puts a strong emphasis on starting matches quickly.

Jayden Stockley took less than four minutes to give them the lead against the Terriers on Saturday.

That was just the opening required when you bear in mind the visitors had crossed the Pennines into Lancashire unbeaten in seven matches and playing with confidence.

Had Huddersfield been able to negotiate a path through the opening spell and get into their rhythm, things might have been different.

Alan Browne slides on his knees to celebrate scoring Preston's second goal

Alan Browne slides on his knees to celebrate scoring Preston's second goal

Instead they were fishing the ball out of the net early doors and ahead of them lay a tough afternoon against a North End side who the rest of the Championship are just beginning to wake up to.

This campaign’s speedy starts aren’t happening by accident.

“What we try to do here is blitz teams for the first 15-20 minutes, get on top and get that first goal,” said North End manager Neil.

“The one thing we do have if we get that first goal and then teams have to come on top of us, we have that pace to hit them on the counter.

Paul Gallagher gets ready to take a penalty against Huddersfield

Paul Gallagher gets ready to take a penalty against Huddersfield

“That first 15-20 minutes for us has always been crucial.

“Last season, I think it was only in the last few games of the season that we conceded a goal in the first 15 minutes.

“It shows how much focus we put on that first little spell of the game.”

Against Brentford they had scored in the fourth minute too, that setting them on the way to a 2-0 win.

Huddersfield skipper Christopher Schindler goes for a ride on Jayden Stockley's back

Huddersfield skipper Christopher Schindler goes for a ride on Jayden Stockley's back

Preston scored inside six minutes against Wigan, in the seventh minute when they beat Stoke.

At Swansea, they nosed in front after 11 minutes but did lose that one.

First half goals, albeit a bit later, have come in six games they have got points from.

Only against Blackburn, Leeds and Charlton have they waited to the second half to score and taken points from them.

Huddersfield’s visit potentially had a tough look about it. Their boss Danny Cowley had won the Championship’s manager of the month award on the back of their strong form of late.

They appeared to be a side in a somewhat false position, still adjusting to life at this level after taking the drop from the Premier League.

North End were fresh from a short stay at the top of the table and the wave of publicity that had brought.

Part of the story was Preston resisting the attempts of Stoke to lure Neil to the Potteries.

Would all of those things culminate in a difficult day for PNE? No it didn’t!

They were as dominant for the first hour or so as they have been this season.

Town boss Cowley said his side had been outfought, something he had only rarely experienced in his career as a manager.

North End were clinical, scoring with three of their four shots on target.

They made the most of their 38% possession and kept their visitors at arm’s length in the main.

Huddersfield’s consolation strike came with their single effort on target.

That 74th minute goal was to make the closing stages a bit more uncomfortable than it needed to be.

But Preston had done their job by then, Stockley’s goal added to by Alan Browne’s smart finish at the far post and a penalty from the trusty right boot of Paul Gallagher.

Let’s talk Gallagher for a moment. As well as sticking his spot kick away, he claimed an assist for the opener and had a hand in the second.

Although the midfielder is 35, he continues to play with the energy of someone a good few years younger.

Gallagher plays the first few yards in his head, then the legs come into play.

That’s four goals for the season now, two in the last two matches.

If North End did lose a bit of direction in this game for a short while, it happened after Gallagher went off.

He’d got a knock, and with Huddersfield having changed shape a touch, it was time for fresh legs.

That nous and know-how went with him, and there were a few minutes when Gallagher being on the sidelines showed.

They saw it through, this a seventh league home win in nine games, coupled with two draws. Fortress Deepdale indeed.

In the Championship, they have not been beaten on home soil since losing to Leeds on April 9.

Victory was achieved without Ben Pearson and Daniel Johnson, with one banned and the other injured.

Ryan Ledson was Pearson’s replacement, Gallagher came in for Johnson.

It wasn’t quite like-for-like but the disruption of the loss of two influential midfielders was kept to a minimum.

Ledson’s afternoon might have been a shorter one had a tougher stance been taken by referee Geoff Eltringham on the midfielder's tackle on Tommy Elphick.

He caught Elphick late as the defender cleared in the 18th minute, yellow sufficing in Mr Eltringham’s eyes when others might have produced a red card.

North End were long since ahead at the time, Gallagher having curled a free-kick past the wall and against the post.

The ball spun back into the middle for Stockley to stoop and head home from six yards.

That was a lead doubled in the 33rd minute, a back heel from Browne starting the move rolling. Gallagher played it to Ledson who swept a pass out to Tom Barkhuizen on the right-wing.

His cross travelled over to the far post where Browne knocked it goalwards, via a touch off the keeper.

PNE’s third goal came six minutes after the interval, Barkhuizen’s cross hitting the hand of Terence Kongolo.

Gallagher’s penalty found the roof of the net, that effectively them home and dry.

Juninho Bucuna ran from the half-way line to pull one back, his poked finish clipping Patrick Bauer en route.

It ended up being nothing more than a consolation, North End able to carry a third successive victory into the international break.