Preston made it back-to-back wins on the road with a 2-0 win at Stoke City on Saturday.
Alan Browne and Brad Potts got the goals as North End built on their 4-1 victory at Queens Park Rangers.
Things are more than coming together
It’s not always a given that when players come back things will turn. But that has certainly been the case for Alex Neil. With options aplenty, his side picked up a decent point at Swansea before putting in arguably their best performance of the season at QPR. Neil challenged his side to build on it again at Stoke and they certainly did that. Goals from Alan Browne and Brad Potts completed a win that served up another reminder of the team that came so close to the play-offs last time around. They didn’t create a glut of chances but defended for their lives when they needed to and scored two good goals. North End should now firmly be looking up for the rest of the season.
Browne might only just be getting started
The challenge for any player after a breakthrough season is to kick on again. With his 10th goal of this campaign against Stoke, Alan Browne has passed the impressive total of nine that saw him named player of the year for 2017-18. This was a really tidy finish. After good work from Darnell Fisher breaking into the box, his shot was blocked and the ball broke for the Irishman who shifted the ball onto his left foot and fired a low shot beyond Jack Butland. It’s only the end of January so who knows what Browne can hit by the end of the season? He is of course more than a goalscorer, the No.8 also led PNE’s high press with his customary industry in an advanced midfield role.
Potts looking like a perfect fit
Browne may have 10 goals but it’s clear that all eyes aren’t solely on him when it comes to goals from midfield. Brad Potts kept his cool experly 10 minutes from time to beat Jack Butland one-on-one to all but make sure of the points for PNE. That made it two in two for the £1.5 million signing from Barnsley who is doing what all new arrivals want to do by making an immediate impact. He has energy to burn and covers the ground well, comparisons to Browne not unfounded. The only blot on his day was conceding the foul for the late penalty but it shouldn’t take away from what a bright start he has made for PNE.
Competition may bring best out of Fisher
There was no sign of new arrival Joe Rafferty in the PNE squad at Stoke. Darnell Fisher’s performance at QPR meant he kept his place at right back. Fisher was a key man as North End finished seventh last season but hasn’t hit those heights this time around. That has seen Tom Clarke shift over to right back and put in some solid displays out of position. The skipper’s injury issues have opened the door again however and the performance at Loftus Road was more like what PNE fans got used to from Fisher last season. He carried that on at the bet365 Stadium, good defensive work mixed with a real contribution in the final third, his shot being blocked before Browne scored. The fight for the right back spot will be an interesting one from here on in.
Moult due a change of luck
Louis Moult got injured at the worst possible time in December. After a stop-start 12 months his PNE career was really starting to click into gear. The winner against Nottingham Forest was his first goal from the start as a North End player but he then had to sit out the Millwall victory with a knock before limping out of the defeat at Sheffield Wednesday just before Christmas because of a hamstring problem. In his absence, Lukas Nmecha got up and running and Jayden Stockley impressed on his arrival from Exeter. Moult was back on the bench against his hometown club on Saturday only to limp out of the warm-up on a day where he will have really wanted to make his mark.