Preston North End moved off the bottom of the Championship with a thumping win over Wigan at Deepdale on Saturday.
Callum Robinson scored twice with Tom Barkhuizen and Paul Gallagher also on target as the Lilywhites won in the league for the first time since the opening day.
Below we take a look at the main talking points.
Aston Villa point was something to build on
For all the talk of starting to turn a corner at Villa Park, Saturday’s performance was a big one for PNE. Boy did they deliver. This was as comfortable a win as you’re likely to see. Darron Gibson’s red card may have helped North End on their way but Alex Neil’s side were already two goals to the good and looking like adding to their tally. This was rough and tumble at times with some spells of the game end-to-end. But PNE got on the right side of some key moments and made their dominance count. Some of the attacking football was really easy on the eye and North End made a good Wigan side look bang average. Four goals and three points lift the Lilywhites off the bottom of the Championship and should really get the season up and running.
North End can keep a clean sheet!
For all the talk in the run up to the campaign of a lack of striking options it has been PNE’s defence that has been the problem this season. They have scored plenty of goals but conceding more than two-a-game means picking up any points has been far from straightforward. Neil admitted post-match he made a big call in defence as with Paul Huntington injured he also dropped Ben Davies to the bench with Tom Clarke and Jordan Storey coming into the side. It was another change to the backline and a risk but it brought about the first clean sheet since the opening day of the season. In the context of the season it’s a big 90 minutes for the backline and needs to be the benchmark. There was no real science behind keeping Wigan out, PNE simply did the dirty things well - they blocked, cleared and headed their way to victory, allowing the players in the final third to do their thing.
Like many, Barkhuizen is coming good
A second goal of the season for Tom Barkhuizen points to a man who is slowly but surely finding his form again. It came from a well constructed move with Callum Robinson and Alan Browne involved before the winger got his sight of goal, Christian Walton getting plenty on the shot but unable to keep it out. It’s all about confidence for plenty of this struggling PNE squad and what the goal gave Barkhuizen was clear. Only minutes later he surged down the right and twisted and turned in a run that showed what he is all about before making a mug of Dan Burn with another dart early in the second half. The winger then started the move for Robinson’s first goal. More of the same please Tom.
Nmecha is getting better and better
If Tuesday night’s Villa Park thriller was the night Lukas Nmecha really arrived as a PNE player then he may have gone one better again on Saturday. The Manchester City loanee was a nightmare for the Wigan backline all afternoon. He was manhandled more often than not and didn’t get a lot of help from referee Lee Probert, most notably when he was fouled in the box by Cedric Kipre in the first half for what looked like a stonewall penalty. He did finally get a decision in the second when brought down by Dan Burn in the box, Paul Gallagher converting the spot kick despite Nmecha’s request that he got the honour. A goal is next on the agenda for the promising front man who is proving with his pace and power why he was so highly regarded before arriving
Maguire’s return a timely boost
Just as their season appears to be turning a corner, PNE have their main man back. Sean Maguire was widely expected to be on the bench against Wigan and that proved to the case. With the score at 2-0 it was the perfect time to introduce the Irishman into the fold. His 15 minute cameo offered snippets of what he’s all about and he even had time to set up Robinson for PNE’s fourth with the last kick of the game. He now heads away on Ireland duty, a surprise to some, with all North End supporters hoping he is treated carefully by Martin O’Neill and his staff. A fit and firing Maguire will give North End an added special ingredient as they look to climb towards the right end of the table.
Ben’s bans are hitting PNE hard
Ben Pearson picked up a fifth booking of the season meaning he will miss the trip to Hull in the first game after the international break. This one-game ban means the key midfielder will have missed four games through suspension by the middle of October. This particular yellow came for a cynical clip on Nick Powell that ultimately ended the Wigan playmaker’s game early. Powell is a danger for Latics and was crossing the halfway line, so whether the tackle needed to made is up for debate. What isn’t is that Pearson simply picks up too many yellow cards.He didn’t commit the worst foul of the day though, the PNE man on the receiving end of Darron Gibson’s tackle that saw the Wigan man red carded.