Back to back wins for North End on the road after this superb battling performance saw us beat Stoke City by two goals to nil at the Bet 365 Stadium.
It was North End’s first win at Stoke this century and our first win against the Potters for over 20 years.
North End battled hard throughout the game and scored first on the 20- minute mark through Alan Browne and then clinched the points with 10 minutes of normal time remaining with a breakaway goal scored by Brad Potts.
It could have been tight in the last few minutes but Declan Rudd saved a 90th minute penalty from Sam Clucas to send home the Stoke fans with their tails between their legs.
Pearson was once again the man of the match for me and the way he nullified Joe Allen in the Stoke midfield was a pleasure to watch on this damp January afternoon in the Potteries. Alex Neil stuck with the starting line up that claimed all three points at Loftus Road last week and oh how his faith was repaid.
North End started the game on the front foot with the passing and interchanging in the middle of the Park frustrating the home side players and fans alike.
It was no real surprise when we took the lead in the 20th minute with some deft footwork from Browne setting up his chance and the Irishman made no mistake scoring past Butland in the home goal. Stoke tried to respond but it was Maguire that had a half chance in the box but the attempt was straight at the keeper.
Stoke were gaining more of the ball as the half wore on but there wasn’t really any significant bother to Rudd’s goal and North End went in good value for the one goal lead.
The expected response from the home side came from the start of the second half and North End had to be solid and resolute in defence. Once again the the Potters had plenty of the ball but couldn’t do anything significant until 10 minutes in when Ben Davies superbly blocked an effort from Clucas on the line.
North End swapped Barkhuizen for Stockley with Maguire going to centre forward and this seemed to ease the pressure on the North End defence and we steadied the ship and got back on an even keel. Stoke were going more route one but with 10 minutes to go Pearson got the ball on the right and slipped it through to Maguire who in turn put Potts in the clear and the new signing made no mistake slotting past Jack Butland to make it 2-0.
North End had the anxious moment with the penalty right at the end but Rudd knocked the ball onto the bar and Ben Davies cleared away the danger and effectively win the game.
A great win for North End and another excellent performance to boot. All the players from back to front earned their corn on a hard afternoon in North Staffordshire and fully deserved the result with a resolute display.
I picked Pearson as man of the match but I thought the two centre backs were superb and what a combination these two could be for the club in years to come.
A word, too, for the 2,041 North End fans who gave the boys fantastic support all afternoon and who were well rewarded by the team on the field. It is no coincidence that a couple of new signings and half a dozen players coming back into the squad has manifested itself in the results and performances in the last three games.
We are certainly looking up and not down. Now, as fans can’t wait for the next game on Friday night and the visit of Frank Lampard’s Derby County to Deepdale.