Preston North End analysis and verdict after their thumping win over Blackburn Rovers

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After four weeks of waiting, Preston North End fans were treated to a scintillating show by their side as they dismantled Blackburn Rovers in a 4-1 Lancashire derby win.

This season, almost more than any other, has been so football heavy you could forgive those that may have wanted a reprieve after travelling over 2,000 miles supporting the Lilywhites so far. But North End do perform well on the road and they were at it again at Ewood Park.

Ben Woodburn got North End on their way before Ched Evans made it two. Bradley Dack pulled one back for the home side but Evans was having none of it and restored the two-goal advantage shortly after. Ben Whiteman rounded off the scoring at Ewood.

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PNE set the tone early on, Ryan Ledson flying into a challenge with Callum Brittain. It was forceful but masterfully timed and even a showing of his maturity that keeps developing the longer he is at PNE.

Preston North End's Freddie Woodman removes a flare from the pitchPreston North End's Freddie Woodman removes a flare from the pitch
Preston North End's Freddie Woodman removes a flare from the pitch

Early into his time at the club he may have gone in at knee height – we’ve seen it before – but instead his foot was aimed towards the floor, he won the ball and it was a show of aggression and intent that Blackburn never matched throughout the following 87 minutes.

PNE got the game absolutely spot on. Ryan Lowe’s team selection was inspired – sorry, enforced, as six injuries to first team players left him with few options.

But those players that did come into the side were no strangers to the starting XI or Championship football and were more than capable of doing a job, which they did.

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It was a huge opportunity for those that stepped in - Greg Cunningham, Ben Whiteman, Alvaro Fernandez, Ben Woodburn and Daniel Johnson – to stake a claim for a regular spot, with the latter two in particular in and out of the team due to hot and cold performances.

Preston North End's Ben Whiteman celebrates scoring his side's fourth goalPreston North End's Ben Whiteman celebrates scoring his side's fourth goal
Preston North End's Ben Whiteman celebrates scoring his side's fourth goal

But in coming in and doing the business, not only have they shown their quality and their abilities to start more regularly, as a wider point they have also shown the strength in depth that PNE have on offer.

Six injuries and a 4-1 win against a local rival who are still third in the table despite the heavy defeat? That is good going no matter what.

Woodburn took his goal expertly. He’s is one of the first choices in the North End squad to be in that position and he never looked like doing anything but opening the scoring.

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He was set on his way by Evans who battered the Rovers defence, they just could not handle him. His ability to be a battering ram is not at the cost of his technical abilities however. He showed good touches and his mobility offers plenty for North End too. His second goal, a real striker’s goal where he got up ahead of the defender to head come an arching cross from the left, is exactly what you want to see from Preston’s No.9 who is a bit of a throwback.

He was undoubtedly the man of the hour but spare a thought for Johnson who was only just overshadowed. There is no way around it, the Jamaican has been disappointing this season given his usual standard.

But he was back to making smart runs, keeping the ball and just generally being a threat. His backheel to set up the fourth goal oozed class.

And from a man with over 300 games to his name to a quartet that share just a dozen. Mikey O’Neill made his sixth first team appearance, Jacob Slater his third, likewise Finlay Cross-Adair and Noah Mawene came off the bench less than 24 hours after playing an hour as captain in a 6-1 win for the U18s in the FA Youth Cup to make his North End debut.

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With injuries piling up Lowe looked to the academy and with the game already won, he was able to blood one more and getting three others further run outs in a Preston shirt.

Regardless of their time on the pitch being involved in that victory, the build up and aftermath will only serve them well going forward.

The win, after the rest of Saturday’s games, left Lowe’s side fifth in the league.

The visitors were the side on top for the opening quarter of an hour and got their rewards on 17 minutes. Ryan Ledson turned a loose ball forward into the feet of Evans whose pass for the onrushing Woodburn was weighted perfectly for the Welshman to coolly place beyond Thomas Kaminski to open the scoring.

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They wasted no time in adding to their advantage in the second half, Blackburn attempting to play out from a goal kick but dispossessed by Woodburn who was then felled. Johnson was up in support to keep up the attack and he rolled it into the path of Evans who found the back of the net just two minutes into the second half.

Blackburn pulled one back as a cross from the left was kept alive by Ben Brereton Diaz and his poke landed kindly for Dack who volleyed the ball beyond Woodman and kept Rovers in with a chance, and 35 minutes still to play.

Six minutes later however, PNE restored their advantage. Cunningham's cross from the left was met by Evans who expertly steered his header into the corner to send the travelling support into raptures.

Not content with three, PNE made it four after 65 minutes. Fernandez's cross from the left came out to Johnson on the edge of the box who intelligently backheeled the ball into the path of Whiteman who had come charging forward and he found the far corner.