Time to thank Frankie, says Preston North End Fans’ Panel’s John Roper
Job done for North End as Frank McAvoy and his charges comfortably beat Wayne Rooney’s Derby County to leave the Rams deep in trouble and North End looking forward to planning the campaign for next season.
Goals from Ben Whiteman, Ched Evans and Ryan Ledson saw Preston score three times without reply with a very professional performance and a third victory of the season over Derby.
The visitors had plenty of the ball early in the first half but from the moment Ben Whiteman opened his North End account we always looked like the side most likely to take the points.
After the break the visitors came out and ploughed forward for a while but North End saw them off and when Ched Evans made it two the, travelling heads were dropping.
A Ryan Ledson free-kick that beat everyone late on put the icing on the cake for North End and sealed a comprehensive victory against a shell shocked Derby outfit.
Frankie McAvoy made just one change to the side that took a point at Stoke last Saturday with Liam Lindsay coming back into the side at the expense of Emil Riis.
North End continued with the 3-4-1-2 formation favoured by McAvoy, with Tom Barkhuizen moving up front to partner Evans.
Derby had plenty of the ball early on but never really threatened and it was a Alan Browne shot after 10 minutes that saw the first attempt of the game.
Whiteman shot over on the quarter hour but three minutes later North End were ahead when good work down the right hand side saw a cross from Browne met by Whiteman’s head and PNE were in front.
Daniel Iversen punched clear as the Rams looked for an equaliser and Derby had a goal ruled out for offside just before the half hour.
North End seemed more comfortable on the ball with Ledson heading over just before half-time and Sepp van den Berg blocking a Derby shot in added time at the end of the half.
Derby came out at full speed at the start of the second half and the Preston back five had to be very alert to repel the early charge.
Three chances in the same move saw two shots blocked and Iversen make an excellent save.
The Rams had a couple of shots over the bar and a header that went wide but North End had seen them off and when Brad Potts replaced Whiteman with 25 minutes left it was the boost the midfield needed and North End never looked back.
Barkhuizen had a shot before Evans was on hand to pick up the pieces after a Potts cross was only parried by the keeper.
The Derby heads went down and although the visitors had the ball in the ne,t Iversen had been fouled and the goal was chalked off.
A free-kick on the left with three minutes to go saw Ledson’s cross evade everybody and creep in the far corner and with that goal North End were safe.
So it’s eight points from five games for McAvoy as the straight-talking Scot completes the job he was brought in to do.
McAvoy deserves enormous credit for how he has pulled things together after the almost disastrous end to Alex Neil’s tenure at Deepdale.
North End must start work straight away with their planning for next season as every moment is vital in being as well prepared as we can be for when it all kicks off again in August.
There are still three games to go and Preston must do everything they can to finish as high as they can after looking in some trouble after the home defeat against Luton.
This performance certainly encourages me to believe that there is the basis of a squad that can compete next season but, for now, I think we all owe Frankie a drink when the season finally closes at the City Ground a fortnight on Saturday because he has steered a very wobbly ship into much calmer waters.