Preston North End can go into the international break brimming with confidence after another dominant display.
Unbeaten in seven, Huddersfield were one of the Championship’s form teams going into Saturday’s game, but PNE dismantled them with ease, going three-nil up before the Terriers grabbed a 74th minute consolation.
The result left Alex Neil visibly delighted and speaking to Quest TV post-match, the Scotsman responded to recent speculation by saying:
If you look at what the lads give me on the pitch, there’s no way I could leave that.
A fitting tribute to a squad who have been adaptable, determined and ruthless so far this season.
Here are our 5 Talking Points from the game:
Stockley continues to shine.
Jayden Stockley is becoming a fixture in Alex Neil’s starting lineup and this is testament to his patience and hardwork.
The target man has had his fair share of criticism, some of which has been warranted, but that criticism was put on hold when the 26-year-old opened the scoring after just 4 minutes, stooping low to head the ball past Grabara and into the net.
While it wasn’t a postage-stamp finish, it was a goal that Stockley has earned and it will give him that much needed confidence to begin finding the net more often.
The former Exeter hitman won more duels (13) than any other player and was a real nuisance during his 76 minutes played.
Yes, he can be theatrical at times, much like Joe Garner in a sense, but it’s an important part of his game and a factor which unsettles the opposition.
He draws cheap fouls, and when you have a set piece taker like Paul Gallagher in the side, winning cheap freekicks is crucial.
No Pearson or Johnson? No problem.
Once again, the Lilywhites showed adaptability in the middle of the park.
Ben Pearson, arguably Preston’s best player, was missing due to suspension, while top goalscorer Daniel Johnson was out through injury.
Instead of moaning though, Alex Neil rolled up his sleeves and made the necessary adjustments.
In came Ryan Ledson, a player with a reckless streak, but the fiery Liverpudlian is maturing well in the Championship and seemlessly slotted into the side.
The midfield anchor does not impose himself on the game like Pearson, but he can progress into the final third and pick out a difficult pass.
He is certainly improving and provides PNE with ample cover at the base of the midfield.
Paul Gallagher also returned to the starting XI and deservedly earned the MOTM accolade.
His pinpoint freekick which cannoned back off the post fell straight to Stockley who scored and in the second half, the veteran sealed the victory with a thumping penalty kick.
The glorious Gallagher is the linchpin in this squad, not just because of his goal contributions and passing ability, but for his diplomacy too; intervening in situations and dealing with the referee.
Quality over quantity.
Huddersfield dwarfed Preston in terms of possession, boasting a 62.2% share of the ball.
But, Alex Neil’s men couldn’t have been anymore dominant.
PNE created double the amount of chances over 90 minutes and registered an xG (Expected Goals) total of 2.48, compared to Huddersfield’s 0.44.
The Terriers struggled to break Preston down in a game that lacked fluidity.
The referee’s whistle constantly punctuated the game, meaning neither side could gather much momentum. But PNE, as shown by the raw shot data, were deadly in and around the box – with triple the number of shots inside the box compared to Huddersfield.
This game, then, lacked scintillating passages of play, but the Lilywhites used the ball intelligently, choking the Terriers out of the game.
Penalty North End.
Saturday marked Preston’s eighth penalty of the season – that means we have won more penalties than Reading, Sheffield Wednesday, Middlesbrough, Luton, Hull, Fulham and Bristol City combined this season.
Sheer fortune or all deservedly so?
We would opt for the latter.
Every penalty decision has been correct and therefore opposition fans should look to their own team’s poor defending before levelling the “luck” excuse at Preston.
Preston 8 penalties in 16 games 🤔— 13attman 💙💛 (@richardbatt1) November 9, 2019
Back to his old self.
Irish midfielder Alan Browne looks to be returning to the heady heights reached last season.
After a bitty few months, the relentless runner has started to recapture his identity, grabbing an assist at home to Blackburn and performing well at Charlton, before scoring his first goal of the season on Saturday.
It wasn’t a vintage Alan Browne goal, but it was an important finish nonetheless.
The Irishman played a role in the build up, before sneaking in at the back post to rifle a first time effort which deflected off the keeper and into the net.
Browne has been overlooked in recent weeks, but he is certainly beginning to rise back to prominence.