Ryan Lowe reacts to Preston North End going top of the league after Stoke City win

Preston North End's manager Ryan Lowe celebrates Preston North End's manager Ryan Lowe celebrates
Preston North End's manager Ryan Lowe celebrates | CameraSport - Andrew Kearns
PNE made it 13 points from 15 with Saturday’s 0-2 win at Stoke City

Preston North End manager Ryan Lowe was over the moon to see his side head into the international break top of the Championship - after Saturday’s 0-2 win at Stoke City.

Will Keane was at the double in the second half of the bet365 encounter, scoring his third and fourth goals of the season to send PNE to the summit of the Championship. It is only five games in, but North End kept their early-season buzz going with a typically hard-fought victory on the road - in front of 2,500 travelling fans.

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Lowe made a couple of changes for the match, with Ali McCann and Jack Whatmough brought in for Duane Holmes and Kian Best. The introduction of Holmes, in the second half though, was a match-swinging moment as the American won PNE’s penalty and then assisted Keane for his second. PNE’s boss felt his side’s performance was complete, at a tough away venue.

“I am pleased, I think the performance was fantastic,” said Lowe. “Defensively, it was resolute and we knew we could create some chances as well. They are a good team, we know that - they have got good players and have spent a lot of money. But, what we have got at the moment, is that togetherness. And the lads are taking on instructions very well. We know they had a lot of play, but our lads put their bodies on the line and deservedly came away with three points.

“You could see them cramping up. The group know what they’re doing and they give us everything on a daily basis, so long may that continue. If you saw the patterns of play we work on in training, you’d see it replicated. Duane, in the second half, we asked him to drive at people. It wasn’t Mads’ day today; he wasn’t driving at people and maybe the break has come at a good time for him. Duane was disappointed to be out of the team, but those are the decisions I have to make. He then goes on and sets the goals up for us to win.

“I have always got belief. Sometimes I have to pull the reigns in on myself. Why can’t we enjoy the moment of being top of the league? Why wouldn’t you? But, we know it is going to get harder. Teams are going to want to beat us and knock us off that, but we have that hunger and togetherness. Lads are taking responsibility, leadership and I have an unbelievable group of staff who give the lads everything and work tirelessly hard.

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“When that comes together as one; we are not messing around at the back anymore. We’ll play and we’ll pass, at the right times. The lads are buying into all of that at the moment, so long may it continue. Going into the break, it will be a nice welcomed one and we’ll enjoy it - but get back to work at the end of next week. We do our bit off the pitch and then do it on the pitch. We’ve spoken about game management since I’ve been here. They bombarded us with shots and crosses; we had to work hard for it.”

The decision to leave out Holmes - who had a big say in last weekend’s victory over Swansea City - was not an easy one for Lowe. His reaction to being dropped to the bench particularly pleased the North End chief, as well as his contribution on the day.

“Yeah, very tough,” said Lowe. “Duane and Ali were both in the team on Thursday and Friday, in and out of possession. I had to make that call, but one thing he did do was just accept it and say no problem. We are in it together and then, when called upon he goes out there in the second half he produces a wonderful display. That’s what he’s got and credit to Duano. We were solid and resolute for 45 minutes and then Duane came on and gave us something different, so really pleased.”

Lowe also handed a first Championship start to Jack Whatmough, since his summer move from Wigan Athletic. The defender had been limited to substitute league appearances up until Saturday’s match, but he gave Lowe exactly what he was looking for in the Potteries.

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“Oh no,” said Lowe, in response to the point that Whatmough did not let him down. “He hasn’t been letting us down coming on the pitch either. Besty has been fantastic; we just felt that their wide players are good players. We didn’t want Besty to have a difficult afternoon, so we bumped Hughesy up one and bumped Lindsay over one. Jack came in and cramped up towards the end, but overall he was fantastic along with the rest of the group.”

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