Sean Gregan’s exclusive column: Successive away wins a huge boost for North End

Preston North End's Alan Browne celebrates scoring the opening goal against Stoke with team-mate Darnell Fisher
Preston North End's Alan Browne celebrates scoring the opening goal against Stoke with team-mate Darnell Fisher

For Preston North End to have got back-to-back away wins is a huge boost and has strengthened their footing in the Championship no end.

A couple of weeks ago you might have looked at games at Queens Park Rangers and Stoke City and thought a draw from both wouldn’t have been too bad.

So to win them both and score six goals along the way was impressive.

Traditionally, Stoke has always been a tough place to go for teams.

When they were in the Premier League, the old line about the conditions there would get trotted out and I think they turned that to their advantage.

I was playing the last time PNE won at Stoke and that shows how long ago it was!

We won on Boxing Day 1998 when Michael Jackson scored with a header early on from a corner.

I remember it being a real battle in the second half as we defended that lead.

Saturday’s win seems to have been more comfortable and credit to Alex Neil’s lads for that.

They got the opening goal in the 20th minute which built on the good start made.

At a place like Stoke, the first goal is always important because if the visitors score it, the home fans can turn on their side and be impatient.

Alan Browne’s goal gave North End the advantage and something to hold on to.

They then added a late second goal to settle any nerves, Brad Potts scoring for the second game in a row.

At 2-0, Stoke did get a 90th minute penalty.

But Declan Rudd pulled off a fine save to ensure a clean sheet.

Had that one gone in, it would have made for a rather anxious last few minutes.

It was important for the keeper to make that save, just for the sake of keeping a clean sheet.

Goalkeepers thrive on a clean sheet, it is as important to them as a striker scoring a goal at the other end.

Rudd has had a bit of a tough time this season with some of the mistakes he has made, so saving the penalty won’t have done him any harm at all.

What the last two wins has proved is that PNE are so much stronger with their injury list having shortened considerably.

For a while the team was almost picking itself and not having competition is never a healthy position to be in.

But Neil now has different options available to him, he can make strong changes from the bench.

After the two wins on the road, it is back to Deepdale for Preston when they play Derby on Friday night.

It is on the television and hopefully PNE can put in the type of performance they did at Loftus Road and the bet365 Stadium in front of their own supporters.

If they could make it three wins on the bounce, that would give them plenty of confidence.

Derby look a decent side from what I’ve seen of them.

Frank Lampard is making a decent go of his first job as a manager.

Being a top-class player doesn’t always transfer itself to management but he seems to have made the transition.