Five things we learned from Preston North End’s last-gasp 1-0 win over Birmingham City
Preston North End left it late to seal all three points against Birmingham City on Saturday.
A poor game was settled by a Sean Maguire header in the 94th minute to spark wild scenes of celebration at Deepdale.
Below we take a look at the main talking points.
It isn’t over until it’s over….
Well, well, well. Few people in the ground can claim to have seen that dramatic finale coming. This in truth was a nothing game and having drawn more often than not at home during this unbeaten run, it looked to be heading that way again. That was especially the case when Daniel Johnson was denied in stoppage time one-on-one by Lee Camp. That looked like being the chance to win it but it simply set up the dramatic finale. Johnson composed himself to send over the corner and Sean Maguire headed home at the back post. It sparked scenes of pandemonium in what feels like a big moment in North End’s play-off push. Much like this game, it isn’t over until it’s over, PNE remarkably now level with sixth place, admittedly with sides behind them having games in hand.
This is the sign of a promotion-winning side
It’s nine points over the last seven days and in truth, PNE haven’t played particularly well at all. Against Blackburn they were professional at best, in midweek at Middlesbrough they were right up against for the first half especially and on Saturday it was a really frustrating day on home soil. Johnson’s clean break was the first real chance of any note and that came in the 93rd minute. This though, as the cliche goes, is the sign of a promotion-winning side. Picking up three points when you aren’t at your best isn’t a bad habit to get into at all. At this time of the season, it’s a sign that things are certainly going your way. It’s now 12 games without defeat with an international break to recover.
Robbo’s return gives everyone a real boost
The sight of Callum Robinson and Louis Moult on the team sheet was a big boost for all involved with nine games to go. Robinson, after nearly four months out, got the final half an hour in place of Brad Potts who was also back after an admittedly shorter absence. He was tasked with helping break down a stubborn Birmingham backline but was on the fringes of the game. It was always going to be a big ask for him to make a real impact. It’s never easy coming back from a serious injury and this was not a game made for creative players. For his part, Moult remained on the bench but with eight games to go his chance will come. ,
Browne and Gallagher’s influence can’t be underestimated
The returns of Callum Robinson, Brad Potts and Louis Moult masked a couple of key absentees for Alex Neil. After limping off against Middlesbrough both Alan Browne and Paul Gallagher were missing for this game. Their influence should not be underestimated on this North End team, the pair arguably being Neil’s two standout players this year. The first half lacked any real composure and could have done with Gallagher’s quality on the ball in particular. The second was something of a non-event in terms of goal-mouth action at either end as well. Yes Neil’s squad is deep, but any side will miss the quality that Browne and Gallagher possess, the pair two definite starters when available.
Davies suits the armband
With no Browne, Gallagher or Tom Clarke it was Ben Davies who started as captain. It is a job he has done before, but leading his side out at Deepdale having come through the academy will have been a big moment for the defender. It is a role that suits him and may give an idea of where the armband might sit in the future for PNE. As well as being one of Neil’s key men, the North End boss has pointed to the fact that Davies has embraced being one of the dressing room leaders at just 23. He is now one of the best central defenders in the Championship and against Birmingham he was his composed self, even knowing when to take a late, key booking for his side.