Milutin Osmajic raises the roof as Preston North End battle back to beat Birmingham City
Milutin Osmajic scored his first Preston North End goal as Ryan Lowe’s men picked up all three points against Birmingham City
Preston North End are enjoying life at the top of the Championship table and showing no intention of leaving there, with Tuesday night’s 2-1 comeback win over Birmingham City the Lilywhites’ sixth straight victory. Ryan Lowe’s men have started the campaign remarkably and they dug deep to find the required spirit once again.
Birmingham suffered their first defeat of the campaign last weekend, but had been going along nicely prior to that and John Eustace’s side undoubtedly started the brighter under the Deepdale lights. A first midweek league clash on home soil whet the appetite, with PNE in sparkling early season form and looking to make it 19 points from a possible 21. But the Blues were slicker and sharper for the majority of the first half, with Ryan Lowe’s men leggy for the first real time this season and struggling to assert any control in the match.
Jack Whatmough was brought into the team for Andrew Hughes - Preston’s only change on a night when their manager resisted freshening things up further. He must’ve been tempted. The visitors stifled and frustrated North End for large parts, yet the best chance of the first 45 minutes fell the hosts’ way. Duane Holmes naturally picks up dangerous pockets of space and it was he who teed up Brad Potts, but the number 44 - fresh from signing a new contract - could only send his first time effort soaring high and wide.
Lowe must’ve made clear at half-time the need for improvement, but North End were pegged back immediately after the restart. Jay Stansfield has adapted to life in the Championship admirably and when he found himself through on goal, the on-loan Fulham man’s finish was devastating - crashed into the roof of Freddie Woodman’s net. With the tricky Koji Miyoshi in behind him and pacey duo Oliver Burke and Keshi Anderson on the flanks, Preston struggled to get to grips with the Blues’ attack.
But if there is one thing the Lilywhites have had in bucket loads this season, it is character. Liam Millar has only been a Preston player for three weeks, but he identified his new team’s biggest strength as togetherness last weekend. And therefore it was no great surprise to see Lowe’s side level matters fewer than five minutes after falling behind, albeit in fortuitous fashion as Krystian Bielik headed into his own net from a threatening Alan Browne corner.
Big questions were still being asked of North End, who had to put their bodies on the line and run the hard yards in order to withstand another spell of Birmingham pressure. There is just something about kicking towards the Alan Kelly Town End at night, though: a stand with the ability to seemingly pull the ball over the goal line.
With the game hanging in the balance, skipper Browne exploded out of nowhere past two Birmingham shirts just after the hour and played the ball through to Milutin Osmajic - who had been on the fringes of the match, not through a lack of trying. But when the ball broke his way inside the 18 yard box, what followed was a moment of mass destruction. “I know he will score goals,” said the Preston boss, when asked about the centre-forward last month.
With one backwards swing of the right leg, Osmajic unleashed a ferocious strike of sheer brute force - the ball travelling at the helpless John Ruddy like a missile and beating him all ends up. The Montenegrin has a reputation for celebrating in style and his shirt was whipped off immediately, with an almighty roar sent towards his new supporters. From there it was a case of Preston doing what they do best and Lowe’s warriors left everything out on the pitch - Millar hobbling towards the final whistle - to see another three points home. Drink it in.
Preston North End XI: Woodman; Storey, Whatmough (Hughes 52’), Lindsay, Potts, McCann (Brady 52’), Ledson (Whiteman 69’), Millar, Holmes, Browne (c), Osmajic (Frokjaer 75’)