Preston North End delighted a packed Deepdale with a fine derby win over Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.
AS IT HAPPENED: Preston North End v Blackburn Rovers
Tom Barkhuizen, Callum Robinson, Louis Moult and Alan Browne got the goals for Alex Neil’s side who made it eight games unbeaten.
Deepdale looks good when it’s full
It was great to see Deepdale as full as it has been in some time on Saturday afternoon.This was a big game in the county and the crowd reflected it. Some 19.912 were in attendance and the roar that greeted Tom Barkhuizen’s early goal hasn’t been heard in PR1 for some time. The home crowd was then treated to a second shortly after and Deepdale was rocking. The atmosphere calmed somewhat as Rovers found their way back into the game but two second-half goals got the PNE supporters on their feet again. It does make you wonder what the club could become with a stadium even approaching this full week in, week out.
PNE simply can’t afford any more serious injuries
Yes, clubs have a squad for a reason but these injuries are getting a bit ridiculous now. In the week that Alex Neil lost the services of Daniel Johnson and Sean Maguire the sight of Callum Robinson limping off in the second half sent a sinking feeling around Deepdale. All injuries are a blow but Robinson’s would surely be the biggest yet? His goal in the 10th minute was his 10th of the season as he again led the way for North End in the final third. Even in the depths of a poor start, Robinson was the shining light for PNE. He already looks like being key for the Republic of Ireland and is surely vital to Preston’s hopes this season. Keep those fingers crossed.
Dropping Browne may be a masterstroke
The Irishman was back in the side having been dropped at Bristol City and he had big boots to fill after Johnson’s fine run of form. What an impact he made through. Browne’s burst down the left set up Tom Barkhuizen with a little over 60 seconds on the clock and then his through ball released Robinson for the second 10 minutes in. Those bursts were what won him the Player of the Year gong last season and by the player’s own admission, we haven’t seen enough of it this season. His customary industry also went alongside the moments of quality with his late goal, a tidy volley, completing an excellent return to the side. More of that and he’ll soon be one of the first names on the teamsheet again.
Play to Moult’s strengths and he will deliver
Louis Moult came on with 30 minutes to play and was a massive reason why PNE got over the line in this Lancashire derby. The game was in the balance after Danny Graham’s goal right of the start of the second half. But once North End had settled, Moult led the line expertly winning header after header and bringing others in to play. As he has done so often recently, he then capped an appearance off the bench with a goal, a crucial one that restored the Lilywhites’ advantage to two. He then provided the assist for Browne’s clincher late on. It must be a frustrating existence, the striker doing almost all he can to force himself into the starting line-up.
Battle between Rudd and Maxwell swings again
It was a toss of a coin as to who was going to get the nod in goal and Alex Neil decided to stick with Declan Rudd, Chris Maxwell only on the bench after suspension. All the early action was at the other end but Rovers grew into the game with Rudd soon in action. He produced a sharp stop to keep out Bradley Dack’s header before needing to be at full stretch to help Charlie Mulgrew’s free-kick over the bar. The ‘keeper was then equal to a Dack shot that deflected off Ben Davies when he was initially heading in the other direction. He could do nothing about Graham’s goal before then being equal to an Elliott Bennett shot. Many expected Maxwell to return but as against Bristol City and on a busier afternoon, Rudd did little wrong here
Nmecha is learning all the time
Lukas Nmecha was the man to come in with Sean Maguire starting his latest lay-off due to a hamstring injury. As he continues to learn, this was a really different experience for the Manchester City loanee. It was a world away from scoring against Germany for England’s Under 20s on Monday night. Tightly marked and on the end of some tough tackles, it wasn’t his easiest afternoon. He also ran down a few blind alleys when better options were available. Louis Moult took Nmecha’s place on the hour with the youngster having battled hard for little reward. His quality is clear to see though and he will be a real asset this season.