Four talking points as Preston North End haunt ex-Lilywhites with another win at Stoke City

Preston North End’s Will Keane (top) celebrates Preston North End’s Will Keane (top) celebrates
Preston North End’s Will Keane (top) celebrates | CameraSport - Andrew Kearns
Preston North End were 0-2 winners at Stoke City on Saturday afternoon

A solid, senior base to the team

The Lilywhites have needed to rely on the same players to keep performing in the first five matches and they have not let PNE down at all. It is difficult to single individuals out, but club captain Alan Browne is leading by example and Brad Potts has started the season exceptionally well. Those two both produced vital defensive moments at Stoke, with Browne blocking a goal bound shot with his head in the first half and Potts galloping back to stop Mehdi Leris - who went one-v-one after Will Keane’s opener. Jack Whatmough did not put a foot wrong on his first Champoionship start and North End on the whole - once again - looked an extremely organised, efficient unit. You never really felt as though the three points were under any threat, after Keane made it two.

Lowe’s decision justified as Duane makes the difference

Leaving Duane Holmes out of this one wasn’t an easy decision for Ryan Lowe, but the American’s time would come. With Mads Frokjaer on a booking and not driving at the Stoke defence enough for the PNE boss’ liking, Holmes was thrown on at half-time after his match winning contribution in the previous encounter with Swansea. Holmes’ influence on the game was immediate; a nuisance of a midfielder who buzzes around and dances at defenders at will. He has undoubtedly added something to North End as a team and the big challenge will be whether he can maintain this level for the rest of the season. But, for now, Holmes is impacting games for Preston and his role in both goals at the bet365 Stadium was huge. Introduced on 46 minutes; North End two-nil to the good on 57 minutes.

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Party away end

Another great day out at Stoke for North End, who have now won five and drawn one of their last six trips to the Potteries. The draw was behind closed doors, too. Preston are always well backed at the bet365 and the 2,500 travelling fans lapped up every moment of another away day to remember. The noise started during the warm-up, with the sun beating down and North End roared down the tunnel ahead of kick-off. Walking out, PNE’s players must’ve been fuelled an extra five or 10 per cent by the sight of a sold out allocation to their right.

North End supporters were treated to six minutes of utter carnage, with Keane slamming home the penalty and then setting them off again six minutes later, with his second of the afternoon. Alex Neil, Paul Gallagher, Daniel Johnson and Ben Pearson were all goaded towards the end of the game with chants of ‘What’s the score?’ sung at each ex-PNE man.

That may seem uncalled for in the aftermath of the contest, given the significant contribution from all four individuals during their time at Deepdale. There didn’t feel a nastiness about the chants, though; more sung in jest as North End soaked up the moment and embraced a massive win being within touching distance. If Johnson or Pearson decide to give a bit back at some point down the line, mind, you couldn’t exactly blame them.

North End can get stronger

Deadline day signing Liam Millar was in attendance on Saturday and he must be buzzing to get involved after the international break. PNE being top of the league after five games is a start surely beyond anyone’s expectation. And while there will be disappointing days down the line, the Lilywhites’ numbers will be boosted in the coming weeks and that gives them an opportunity to keep the positivity going. Millar and fellow new recruit Milutin Osmajic will add attacking numbers while Ben Whiteman, Emil Riis and Robbie Brady are all not far away. Calvin Ramsay continues to work his way back too, but if Lowe can have five more players available to him in a couple of weeks it will be a major plus. North End’s squad has been so thin in the early part of the season, which makes their results even more credible. Boosted competition and availability can only be a good thing.

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