Four things learned as Preston North End win and leave Sheffield Wednesday boss sour
Away day grit and graft
There are certain things Preston North End do away from home that gives you confidence as a spectator. One of those is frustrating their opponents, which PNE managed to do here by being organised as a unit, committed in their work and pragmatic in possession. Too often last season North End looked unsure in their approach, but the Lilywhites seem as though they’ve had it simplified for them so far. Greater clarity can only help.
PNE are looking to get the ball forward quicker and then play in optimal positions, with Will Keane proving an excellent early season focal point and more crosses coming into the box. The energy and bite in the middle of the park was there in Sheffield and the defence was assured - limiting Wednesday to very few chances over the course of the game.
North End scored their goal from a set-piece and that was enough on the day. Their game management towards the end of the match was impressive, with a real degree of calm out there from the boys in red. PNE were not spectacular but they made life difficult for the home side, took their chance when it came along and battled until the very end. Seven points from nine is a strong start.
Pottsy up to the task
After the news of Liverpool loan man Calvin Ramsay being sidelined for six to eight weeks, this was just the performance PNE needed from Brad Potts. He was particularly impressive in the second half against Sunderland last weekend and the number 44 was one of North End’s best performers against the Owls.
Potts is not blessed with incredible skill, but his endeavour up and down the right flank tends to be faultless. And there is now greater belief in his attacking play, with Potts showing his ability to glide inside and start attacking moves. Preston are going to need more of those shifts in the coming weeks, but as we know by now there is plenty in this particular tank.
“If they ask me if I want to play like Preston, I don’t,” said Xisco Munoz post-match. “I want to play football and try to give better situations.”
It doesn’t appear North End overly impressed the Sheffield Wednesday boss on Saturday. The clip of the Spanish coach was certainly enjoyed by PNE fans on social media, with Munoz evidently frustrated by the fact Preston kept his team quiet and nicked the winner from a set piece.
As mentioned, though, effective PNE sides over the years have always had that character and spirit on the road. The big task for Ryan Lowe’s men this season was to improve on home soil, where they will need to entertain as well as win. But if Preston can keep battling their way to valuable away points too, it’ll be the ideal combination.
Kian has courage and quality
Kian Best is riding the crest of a wave at the moment and the young man is taking every second of it in his stride. Last weekend he came in for strong praise from Ryan Lowe, despite giving a penalty away against Sunderland. Best’s reaction to that adversity was admirable and he has clearly forgotten all about it already.
His performance at Hillsborough was fearless, whether it be taking the ball down on half-way as the deepest PNE player and playing, clattering into a 50-50 tackle or bombing on down the left flank. And while that intent and bravery was fantastic to see, it was Best’s assist which stole the show.
The cross was perfect; bang on the money for Liam Lindsay to attack and convert. His career is still very much in its infancy, but the 17-year-old is making a real name for himself way earlier than anyone - himself surely included - could’ve imagined.