Preston produced a roaring fightback on Saturday afternoon, coming from 2-0 down to beat Blackburn Rovers 3-2.
Alex Neil’s record in local derbies was outstanding heading into the game, but Preston were dire in the first half. Declan Rudd’s unfortunate own goal inside the first minute set the tone for a dreadful 45 minutes, with Sam Gallagher adding a second inside 12 minutes.
North End were much better after the break, with Tom Barkhuizen nodding home before a Daniel Johnson penalty levelled the game. Barkhuizen completed the comeback with a fine finish, sparking wild scenes at Deepdale.
The 3-2 win sent Preston second in the Championship table, and one player stood strong at the back during North End’s second half display.
With Ben Davies out injured, all eyes were on Patrick Bauer in the heart of the Preston defence. The German was needed to hold the back line together, with centre back partner Andrew Hughes effectively playing out of position.
In the first half, that didn’t happen. Bauer was beaten in the air by Sam Gallagher for the opening goal, almost gifted Adam Armstrong a goal with a slack pass, looked generally uncomfortable alongside Hughes and even missed a great chance to score at the back post.
Yet in the second half, Bauer was outstanding. He completely nullified Gallagher and got back to his best, giving North End the platform to build on moving forward. The game was big for the German, not just because of Davies’s absence, but also because of his history with Blackburn.
Rovers chased Bauer for some time whilst with Charlton, but he snubbed them for Preston. After the German made his decision, Rovers boss Tony Mowbray suggested to the Lancashire Telegraph that he wasn’t eyeing Bauer as a first-team signing, rather just a squad player who could maybe play further down the line.
Bauer has played every league game for Preston since signing, forming a great partnership with Davies. Mowbray’s comments looked a little foolish before the game given Bauer’s form, but even more so afterwards.
The big issue for Rovers in the second half was failing to handle Jayden Stockley. North End threw on the target man, and he managed to bully the Rovers defence, playing a key role in two goals.
Derrick Williams and Tosin Adarabioyo managed to win 10 aerial duels combined, whereas Bauer won 11 on his own. The 27-year-old had a shaky start, but ended up dominating once again as Rovers struggled to find anyone to cope with Stockley’s physicality.
Bauer would have been that player, and he certainly showed Mowbray and Rovers what they’re missing with an aggressive and dominant second half performance.