Preston North End Fans’ Panel: Tim Mercer says Jayden Stockley’s role was vital
What a match in the end for us home fans.
To say we were reeling in under a minute, and even more so at the 11-minute mark, would be an understatement as the old enemy aggressively took the game to us with great success that belied their recent form.
All talk before the match of ‘how much would Rovers lose by?’ vanished in that short time span and reminded everybody that this was an old-fashioned blood-and-guts derby.
Unusually for Alex Neil he got his opening tactics wrong here, with a match-rusty left-back, Andrew Hughes, filling in as a centre-back for the injured Ben Davies despite having other recognised centre-backs available.
Not only did this raise a few eyebrows before kick-off, but the disarray at the back in the opening quarter of an hour or so provided all the evidence needed for some booing at half time as we went in still two goals down.
To be fair to Neil he made it clear he had made a mistake after only 29 minutes, bringing on Jayden Stockley in an attempt to change the style to being more direct.
Whilst it didn’t have much effect up to the break, boy did it work in the second half. Stockley started causing all kinds of trouble for the visiting defence and it was now North End who attacked with purpose and aggression to take advantage of the time and space the big targetman was creating.
After pulling a goal back with a Tom Barkhuizen header at close range, from a headed knock back by Sean Maguire, we started to believe we could get an equaliser.
Sure enough, more attacking play led to Alan Browne being tripped in the box and a confident Daniel Johnson duly put the spot-kick away.
Inside the final 10 minutes as Barkhuizen finished off a fine display with a belter of a goal.
Taking the ball at pace, he let fly with a beautifully placed strike across the keeper into the far side of the net.
Bragging rights were kept again to add to the double of last season.