Too early to talk about the P word? Fan John Roper can't help but dream after Preston moved to third in the Championship table

A great day out in the second city for Alex Neil and the boys as North End claimed all three points at St Andrew’s with a winning first half goal from Sean Maguire.

Sunday, 22nd September 2019, 10:12 am
Updated Sunday, 22nd September 2019, 11:12 am
Sean Maguire in action against Birmingham City

North End pretty much dominated in the first half looking dangerous on the counter attack and defending solidly at the other end when it was necessary.

After the break the home side came into the game a little more as North End dropped slightly deeper and in the last 20 minutes we seemed satisfied with what we had and invited the Blues to try and break us down which they could not do.

They did have the ball in the net with 11 minutes to go but the goal was flagged offside and although it got a little frenetic towards the end there were not really any major scares.

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North End held out fairly comfortably in the nine minutes of additional time played and celebrated to a man at the end by acknowledging and applauding the 1,518 fans who made the trip down the nightmare that is the M6 to see their heroes play.

Manager Alex Neil made four changes to the side that beat Brentford last week with Andrew Hughes, Ben Pearson, Paul Gallagher and Josh Harrop coming in for the injured Billy Bodin with Alan Browne, Joe Rafferty and Ryan Ledson all dropping down to the bench.

It was the usual 4-2-3-1 with Tom Barkhuizen playing at Centre Forward and Sean Maguire playing on the left of three behind him. North End started well and could have had a penalty when Maguire was pushed over but referee Martin waived play on.

Birmingham were trying to make it difficult for us to break them down with two lines of four but North End got the goal which turned out to be the winner.

Maguire was fouled in a left central position and from the resulting free kick Gallagher hit the inside of the post only for the ball to bobble along the goal to where Maguire was waiting to gleefully knock the ball into the net.

For the rest of the first half, North End certainly were the better side and must have been well pleased going in one up for their half time refreshments.

The second period started with the home side trying to take the game to North End a bit more but with the midfield and the forwards running their socks off, we were proving very difficult to break down.

The second half got scrappy for a while with plenty of niggly fouls given away by both sides with Birmingham looking to get back into the game and North End looking for a second goal to sew the game up.

The home side had a number of corners and set pieces but every time the ball came into the Preston box there was always a player there to clear the danger and set North End on the attack.

Pep Cotet used all three substitutes to try and force a way back into the game but the nearest the Blues got was an offside goal 11 minutes from the end which added to the frustration on the pitch and in the home stands.

North End should have had a penalty just before the offside goal when Maguire was flattened again but once again Mr Martin choose to waive play on must to the disgust of the travelling fans. Birmingham threw the kitchen sink at it late on but North End held out for victory and an excellent three points.

The win took North End up to third place in the Championship on Saturday evening and if we carry on like this teams will have to give us more respect and we won’t go under the radar for much longer.

This was a solid team performance from one to eleven with Alex Neil winning a fairly tactical battle with his opposite number in the Birmingham dugout.

One thing you have to give the manager credit for is the homework he does on the opposition before every game that North End play and this encounter in the West Midlands was no different.

Just what he has written in his homework book for next Tuesday night is anybody’s guess as North End come face to face with one of the best tactical managers in world football.

Anyway enough about the City game, 16 points from eight games is promotion form and although it is at least six months too early to mention the P word we can but live in hope.