Ryan Lowe cannot fault his Preston North End players’ fitness levels after long lay-off

Preston North End manager Ryan Lowe saluted his side’s fitness levels as they fought back to start 2022 with victory over Stoke City yesterday.
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It was the Lilywhites’ first game for 23 days after Covid had forced three matches to be postponed.

Two of those call-offs were down to positive cases within the PNE squad, hence Lowe’s pleasure at how they had done at the bet365 Stadium.

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After falling a goal behind just after half-time to a superb long-distance shot from Ben Wilmot, Brad Potts volleyed the visitors level.

North End’s Andrew Hughes (right) celebrates scoring his side’s winning goal at StokeNorth End’s Andrew Hughes (right) celebrates scoring his side’s winning goal at Stoke
North End’s Andrew Hughes (right) celebrates scoring his side’s winning goal at Stoke

Andrew Hughes headed an 81st-minute winner from Ben Whiteman’s corner.

Lowe said: “Credit to the fitness staff and the physios, they put the players on the Strava programmes while they were off.

“The lads who didn’t have Covid worked ever so worked to maintain their levels.

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“The ones who did have Covid – and I won’t name names – there were a lot of them out there who played 95 minutes.

Ryan Lowe celebrates after the final whistleRyan Lowe celebrates after the final whistle
Ryan Lowe celebrates after the final whistle

“Last week we were preparing a different team to play Sheffield United, then we had to start again.

“I took 24 lads down to Stoke and all were all fit and available to play – if they were fit they were here.

“We then looked at Pottsy and Ched Evans as being something a bit different, a bit more aggressive, a little more height.

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“So credit to the lads for their fitness levels, they took on board everything we asked of them.

“The four days we had with them were limited, no more than 45-minute sessions together with the analysis work on the TV.”

It is two wins out of two for Lowe as PNE boss, following on from the 2-1 victory over Barnsley on December 11.

Lowe said: “It is always nice to get your first away win, it came in front of the fans who had travelled in their numbers.

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“I thought we played some fantastic stuff, some good patterns of play.

“We watched Stoke the other night against Derby and saw a few things which we felt we could get some joy from.

“Credit goes to the boys, they were fantastic, their application and commitment to go for it towards the end was excellent.

“It would have been easy to say it’s 1-1, we’ll take a point home with us. We wanted to go for it, we freshened it up, made the changes and credit where credit is due to the boys.

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“When Stoke scored I turned round to my bench and said, ‘Wow, where has that come from’?

“Mike Marsh worked with the boy before and he said he said he used to do that in training but had never hit one in a game. Fair play to him but fair play to our boys.”