A game of two halves doesn’t even begin to tell the tail of a dramatic afternoon at Deepdale in this hotpot of a Lancashire derby.
Rovers went into the break on top of the world after making North End look mediocre at best and having a comfortable two-goal lead thanks to a Sam Gallagher opener that came back off the post and hit Rudd on the back on its way in.
Then a well-struck Gallagher shot after 11 minutes put Tony Moybray’s men in dreamland. Alex Neil replaced Gallagher after 25 minutes with Jayden Stockley to adopt a more direct route. Although it didn’t work straight away, after the break it worked a treat as Barkhuizen, a Johnson penalty and Barkhuizen again with the sweetest of finishes, completed the Preston comeback and made sure that the bragging rights in this particular Lancashire encounter remain firmly in Proud Preston.
Blackburn can count themselves a little unlucky on the day but no one can take away the spirit and endeavour in this Preston side who may well go a very long way in the race for the Premier League this season.
Fair play to the manager for accepting his original plan wasn’t working and the change paid huge dividends in the second half.
Stockley was beginning to really ruffle the Blackburn defence and on 53 minutes PNE were back in the game and the home support finally began to believe.
A move down the middle saw Darnell Fisher almost mis-hit a cross to the back post and with the ball looking like it was going out Sean Maguire nipped in to head the ball back to Barkhuizen who nodded home.
Just 12 minutes later North End had levelled the game when Alan Browne went through only to be pulled back by a Rovers defender and referee Steve Martin had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Up stepped Daniel Johnson who first gave the keeper the eyes and then with his customary shimmy sent Walton the wrong way and the Town End into delerium.
It wasn’t over though and with eighty two minutes on the clock the comeback was complete when Browne slotted the ball to Barkhuizen in the inside left position and he made no mistake with a peach of a curling shot to give North End all three points in the sweetest of fashion.
This was a fantastic result in the context of the league table but more important than that it showed that PNE can also play some direct football when they want to and are not just a tippy-tappy team on the ball.
A close call for man of the match for me with special mention to Bauer,
Pearson and Stockley but I thought Tom Barkhuizen deserves the award for being in the right place at the right time for the first goal and for a sublime finish near the end to win the game. So we sit just two points behind the league leaders with just less than a third of the season gone.
It was also very encouraging to see almost two thousand more home fans inside Deepdale than Tuesday evening against Leeds, with 14,573 home support cheering the boys on in a good crowd of 19,165.
So it’s onwards and upwards for Alex Neil and the boys as we travel to play the in form Charlton Athletic next Sunday lunchtime at noon in what promises to be another cracking Championship encounter.