Tim Mercer’s PNE Fans’ Panel view: We missed Paul Gallagher but it’s job done!
An ugly, scrappy match in poor weather conditions saw North End win at the death and send Deepdale into unfettered celebration.
Have no doubt about it, the hosts were off-colour here with many passes and moves breaking down throughout the 90 minutes in a side that was missing key (but injured) midfielders Alan Browne and Paul Gallagher.
Being the type of game it turned out to be, I felt Gallagher’s absence in particular left a big hole that others found hard to fill.
However, the team’s recent record shows just how resilient they are and there is one thing for certain this season – they never give up! Despite Birmingham having slightly the better of both halves, the incredible and immense partnership of the two young centre-halves continues to inspire us all, with Ben Davies getting my vote just ahead of Jordan Storey as man of the match.
Their composure, heading ability and all-round mopping up played a key part in the clean sheet, along with another couple of cracking saves from Declan Rudd. Of these, Rudd’s block with his legs from a Che Adams strike when put through clean on goal stands out in the memory, his positioning and body shape being enough to prevent an almost certain goal.
With the frustration growing and the game still looking beyond Preston in the opening phase of the second half, Alex Neil took action in bringing on Callum Robinson in the 60th minute. He didn’t get to see much of the ball, but I felt his presence on the pitch did give his team-mates a boost and belief that their mainly counter-attacking play would lead to a chance.
It did, and it came about deep into stoppage time as Daniel Johnson was put through on goal only for the keeper to make a fine save. Johnson took the resulting corner which Sean Maguire met with his head to score the winner and more than warm the cockles of our hearts.