John Smith’s Preston North End Fans’ Panel verdict: The chase is on!

Fans before the game at Deepdale on Saturday
Fans before the game at Deepdale on Saturday

As host Bradley Walsh would say at the start of his gameshow “The Chase is On” which appears to be the case now that we have moved up into fifth position in the league table just three points behind the leaders following this fine win against the club the actor and comedian used to play reserve-team football for in the 1970s.

Unlike Walsh, Alex Neil did not have a beast to unleash to aid in his side’s pursuit of a top-two place but he did have an ace up his sleeve and springing a surprise by including the presumed-injured Sean Maguire in his starting line up.

It did not take the returning Irishman long to find the net with a poacher’s goal in the opening minutes when he latched on to a perfectly weighted pass from Ryan Ledson.

For much of the game we sat back and defended well with Patrick Bauer and Ben Davies in particular ensuring Brentford – who had won on four out of their last seven visits here – rarely threatened our goal this time with the “Big German” fully deserving his man of the match award.

Early in the second half Neil showed again how much of a wily tactician he is by utilising his squad by replacing the more defensive Ledson with Paul Gallagher in the middle of the park, and then changing formation 10 minutes later by bringing on Josh Harrop for Billy Bodin.

The substitutions paid dividends shortly after when Tom Barkhuizen wrapped up the three points firing in from close range, after some impressive attacking play by both of our full backs who had managed to find a bit more space following the switch in formation.

It was our fourth consecutive home league win, something I’d never seen before at this level in over 50 years at Deepdale.

If we can maintain our current strong home form there is no reason why we cannot hang around in the top six and go on to take part in the final chase at the end of the season.