Preston picked up a fourth league win of the season on Saturday afternoon, beating Brentford 2-0 at Deepdale.
With no Ben Pearson, this could have been a really tricky game. However, North End welcomed back Seani Maguire and Tom Barkhuizen from injury, and they were matchwinners.
Maguire opened the scoring early on for North End, turning home Ryan Ledson’s cross. Brentford came into the game without truly asking many questions of Declan Rudd, before Darnell Fisher picked out Barkhuizen to make it 2-0.
North End remarkably sit fifth in the Championship table, just three points off top spot. Alex Neil is getting his side firing despite a host of injury woes, but one constant has been Patrick Bauer.
The summer signing from Charlton has started every league game since his arrival. After an impressive season in League One last term, he hasn’t let North End down in the Championship.
The 26-year-old was given the man of the match award on Saturday afternoon, having helped shackle the Brentford attack. Ollie Watkins, Said Benrahma and Bryan Mbeumo are all exciting attacking talents, but Bauer was a key part of nullifying them.
Bauer was dominant physically, and whilst it’s still early days, he does appear to have settled the Preston back four. When Brentford were on top, his influence was key in terms of digging in, riding the storm and coming out the other side without having conceded a goal.
Last season, North End were guilty of folding too often. Bauer’s presence has been helping that of late, at least outside of that one Swansea City game.
He reads the game well, he never really looks flustered, and his partnership with Ben Davies looks perfect. The uncompromising style of Bauer, with a little more experience and vocal leadership in his game, alongside the elegant Davies has been an ideal mix so far. Both can defend doggedly, but also look classy on the ball and can help build attacks from the back.
On a free transfer, Bauer has been exactly what North End needed. Dropping Jordan Storey won’t have been an easy decision for Alex Neil, but Bauer is proving that it was the right call. His man of the match award on Saturday was well deserved, and hopefully there are even more to come.