Preston North End have moved top of the Championship table after beating Alex Neil’s Stoke City 2-0 away from home.
Yes, it’s only five games, but you can’t blame PNE fans for being absolutely buzzing this Saturday evening.
After recording three wins on the bounce, PNE headed to take on former boss Neil in what felt like a big game.
The Potters have been signing players for fun this summer, including ex-North End duo Ben Pearson and Daniel Johnson.
North End ran out comfortable winners in the end though with Will Keane bagging a brace to hand Ryan Lowe all three points.
Duane Holmes went down for the opener, winning a penalty which Keane calmly fired into the net.
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Holmes then laid the ball on a plate for Keane to tap home number two, sending the travelling North End fans into delirium.
PNE had to defend strongly and throw bodies at the ball at times but saw it out to claim a fourth straight win and, even if only temporarily, top spot in the Championship.
Here are five big talking points from PNE’s win at Stoke City…
Will Keane unrecognisable from his first PNE spell
Some PNE fans were less than convinced when Will Keane returned to the club this summer.
Keane joined North End on loan in 2015 but scored just one league goal before deciding he wanted to go back to Manchester United.
Football fans tend to remember this kind of stuff and Keane’s return didn’t initially receive widespread acclaim.
That was eight years ago though and Keane has clearly matured his game since his first spell with PNE.
Today’s brace takes him to four goals already this season – three more than in his last spell at the club.
Keane is now 30 and knows his game, has been leading the line admirably with little cover in the opening weeks of the season.
Keane deserves the goals and all the praise coming his way as he rewrites the narrative around his PNE career.
Ryan Lowe gets another big call right
Lowe was deservedly praised last week having switched PNE’s formation against Swansea City.
1-0 down at Deepdale, Lowe completely changed his approach to really push to get back into the game and it paid off with a 2-1 win.
The big call against Stoke came at half time as Lowe decided to hook Mads Frøkjær-Jensen.
The Dane has quickly become a fan favourite and has become known as a player who can unlock defences, as we saw against Swansea.
Frøkjær-Jensen struggled to get into this game though and having already picked up a yellow card, Lowe hauled him off at half-time.
That was a very bold choice but Duane Holmes came on and proved to be a game-changing player for North End.
Holmes won the penalty following a lazy challenge from Wouter Burger and then made a darting run in behind to set up Keane’s second.
The American came in from Huddersfield over the summer and is already making a big impact having scored the winner against Swansea and turned the game against Stoke in PNE’s favour.
This was a big call from Lowe but for the second week in a row, it paid off.
Brad Potts outstanding yet again
We – like many PNE fans – were excited when North End signed Calvin Ramsay on loan from Liverpool this summer.
The Scot felt like a natural fit as a right wing back in Lowe’s system and had previously shown huge promise at Aberdeen.
Ramsay has sadly suffered an injury setback, so Brad Potts is once again ploughing on as North End’s right wing back, as he has throughout the Lowe era.
Potts has looked like a man possessed this year though, taking his performances to another level.
The 29-year-old was superb against Stoke as well, with his ball for the second goal a thing of beauty.
Spotting Holmes’ run in behind – something PNE maybe lacked at times last season – Potts curled an inch-perfect pass around the Stoke defence to seal the win.
Potts is now playing so well that even when Ramsay comes back, he will have a big task on his hands to wrestle the right wing back spot from the former Barnsley man.
Excitement still to come with missing players
Lowe will preach the right message now; don’t get too carried away, don’t get too high after just five games.
That’s often easier said than done and seeing PNE starting with four wins from five is hugely exciting, especially with so many players unavailable.
Robbie Brady and Ben Whiteman haven’t kicked a ball yet this season and should be back in action later this month.
Emil Riis – who suffered a torn ACL at Stoke last season – could be back after the international break or, if not, then a few weeks later.
Then you look at the deadline day signings of Liam Millar and Milutin Osmajic, who weren’t involved at Stoke having not been registered in time.
Both are international attacks who can add real speed to the PNE attack, potentially making Lowe’s side even more dangerous in transition.
Ramsay and Ched Evans should return further down the line, and whilst you’re never likely to have everybody fully fit at once, it’s easy to get excited about the team PNE could field soon enough.
PNE fans poke fun at former North Enders
Stoke isn’t exactly a rivalry but North End fans were up for this one.
Ex-PNE boss Alex Neil is in charge at Stoke and has former North End hero Paul Gallagher on his coaching staff having lured him away from Deepdale this summer.
Ben Pearson started the game for Stoke and Daniel Johnson came on, so there was a real PNE flavour to this Stoke side.
With North End 2-0 up and cruising, the travelling PNE fanbase couldn’t resist reminding Neil, Gallagher, Pearson and Johnson of the scoreline.
That just added to a fine away day for North End fans, who basked in the sunshine and watched a superb team performance from top of the league – yes, top of the league – PNE.