Five things we learned from Preston North End's 4-1 win at Queens Park Rangers
Preston North End produced a fine away performance to get back to winning ways in the Championship at Loftus Road.
Jayden Stockley, Jordan Storey, Brad Potts and Alan Browne got the goals as the Lilywhites picked up their first victory since December 15.
Below we look back at the main talking points.
PNE getting back to what made them so good last year
In many ways this felt like a game from last season as the Lilywhites displayed some of the qualities that took them so close to the play-offs. Alex Neil had his side press high, which brought them Jayden Stockley’s first goal for the club, and the performance was full of running, energy and endeavour. Ben Pearson didn’t miss a beat in the middle of the park and behind him the backline dealt with everything thrown their way. Even Darnell Fisher, who has struggled for large parts of this season, looked like the player who had such a fine first season at Deepdale. The more than 1,200 travelling fans were treated to arguably the best performance of the season when all was said and done. It isn’t always a given that players returning will lead to an upturn in fortunes but this was a good start.
Stockley isn’t just a target man - far from it
Jayden Stockley’s first PNE goal is certainly one he will savour. Alan Browne did some of the hard work, nicking the ball high up from Josh Scowen. But the Exeter man then produced a fine finish, curling home a shot from the edge of the area that left Joe Lumley in the QPR goal with no chance. Having arrived with a ‘target man’ label, it is clear he certainly brings those qualities. Big and strong he was a handful for the QPR back line as he won headers aplenty and battled for everything. But the opening goal proved what his other major strength is, he knows where the back of the net is. Everyone involved at Deepdale will hope this is just the start.
Maguire getting sharper all the time
With Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy watching on from the stands, Sean Maguire was back in the PNE starting line-up for the first time since November. After two substitute appearances, the No.24 operated from the left and showed signs that his sharpness is coming back all the time. There is still more to come and that will come with more games but everything is certainly pointing in the right direction. Getting back to full fitness will just be the start of the challenge for Maguire though, it’s all about staying fit in the long term after getting another 70 minutes in the bank.
Davies and Storey could be a sign of PNE’s long-term future
Ben Davies was another player back in the starting line-up, the defender having been one of many this season to be ruled out with a hamstring problem. It was the more experienced Paul Huntington who dropped to the bench meaning Davies partnered Jordan Storey at the back. The pair, who particularly impressed in the League Cup win at Leeds earlier in the season, are both comfortable on the ball and in the air and offer a real left-right balance. Huntington and Tom Clarke obviously still have plenty to offer but the future might be now when it comes to this partnership, the duo even combining for PNE’s second goal as Storey hammered home after Davies had flicked on Paul Gallagher’s free-kick.
When he keeps his cool, Pearson is one of the best in the Championship
There’s been plenty of talk about his poor disciplinary record but on Saturday Ben Pearson served up a reminder of why amid all the controversy, he is so highly regarded by all at Deepdale. He simply ran this game from start to finish. At the base of the PNE midfield he broke things up time and again with his expert reading of the game. Then when got hold of it, the underrated footballer got North End going in the right direction with his crisp, simple passing. When on the pitch, and he hasn’t been enough this season, he’s the best player at the club.