We asked for a powerful perfomance after two disappointing results and North End delivered big time at the City Ground, Nottingham, beating Forest very comfortably 3-0.
Billy Bodin got his first for North End after a defensive mistake, Tom Barkhuizen headed home a Paul Gallagher corner and Daniel Johnson sealed the win with a cheeky penalty to round off an excellent evening on the road.
PNE were without Jordan Hugill, who the manager judged to be not in the right frame of mind with all the transfer speculation going on.
It mattered not as North End sparred with the home side for half an hour before dominating the rest of the game with some excellent closing down and some delightful, intricate passing leaving the young Forest side chasing shadows for parts of the game.
The game was a bit cat and mouse in the early stages with Forest trying to get down the flanks and North End having to be disciplined to repel the home sides advances.
Gallagher had a decent shot that went narrowly wide as North End started to assert themselves after the first 20 minutes, Forest had plenty of the ball in the opening quarter but rarely tested Declan Rudd, who looked competent in his first league appearance of the season.
North End took the lead te10n minutes before half-time when a back pass found Mancienne and with the defender dawdling, Billy Bodin nipped in to steal the ball and smartly flip it over the keeper to give North End the lead.
From that moment on it was the visitors who were in control against a Forest side visibly deteriorating as the game progressed and Bodin was unlucky not to make it two just before the break.
In the second half the expected onslaught from the home side never looked likely and it was North End who started the brighter and we had the Reds on the back foot from early on in the second period.
PNE’s efforts were finally rewarded around the hour mark when a Gallagher corner from the Preston right was met by the head of Barkhuizen and it sailed beautifully into the net putting North End two up.
Forest had gone by this time and there were further efforts on goal from Barkhuizen, Robinson and Browne before we sealed the game with 10 minutes to go.
Bodin cut in from the right and Mancienne made a challenge which the ref saw immediately as a penalty kick.
Johnson stepped up and did an ‘Ali shuffle’ before smashing the ball into the net to claim the points and send about 10,000 home fans out of the stadium and off on their way home.
Relief for all, then, at Deepdale after a couple of weeks when the team have been off the boil.
North End made light work of demolishing a Forest side lacking in confidence and having no answer to Preston on the evening.
Many of the 411 travelling fans that I spoke to after the game said it was one of our best displays of the season and few could argue as we put the misery of Saturday at Sheffield United well out of our minds.
Clearly PNE still have much to do if the play-off aspirations are to become a realistic proposition but if North End carry on playing in this manner for the rest of the season then there is every chance that this season could yet turn out to be very successful indeed.
Let’s just hope we can keep it going when Hull visit Deepdale on Saturday.