Preston moved top of the Championship table this afternoon with a 1-0 win at Charlton Athletic.
Ben Davies returned to the side whilst Jayden Stockley was handed a start, having impressed as a substitute against Blackburn Rovers last time out.
North End were dealt a blow in the first half, as Daniel Johnson had to go off injured. A clumsy foul from Naby Sarr ended with the defender catching Johnson’s calf, and a nerve issue meant that the Preston playmaker didn’t have feeling in his leg.
Paul Gallagher came on, and after a wasteful first half from North End, he took the opportunity. Jayden Stockley was hauled down inside the penalty area, and Gallagher stepped up – with his usual approach – to smash beyond Dillon Phillips.
Preston had chances to add gloss to the win, especially when Tom Barkhuizen ran clear and chose to shoot rather than square the ball to Ben Pearson, but North End saw the game out.
Three points on the road sends Preston top of the table, at least until West Brom face Stoke City on Monday night.
It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective
We’ve all seen North End play better this season. The attacking fluidity wasn’t quite there, a few players weren’t at their sharpest, and yet Preston still picked up an impressive win.
Charlton have been strong at The Valley in 2019, but Preston did what they needed to do; controlled possession, made sure there weren’t many chances for the home crowd to get excited, and frustrated the opposition with great game management.
Patrick Bauer and Ben Davies stood strong at the back, Darnell Fisher and Joe Rafferty were excellent in the two full back spots. The likes of Seani Maguire and Alan Browne maybe didn’t hit their heights, but they worked hard for the team.
Away from home, after a trying weekend, with some players not at full pelt, and having lost your top goalscorer in the first half, Preston showed great resolve to claim all three points and go top.
A perfect end to a strange weekend
So, as just mentioned, it’s been an odd weekend. Stoke City wanted to make Alex Neil their new manager, but Preston have reported them to the EFL for an illegal approach. Neil has since reiterated his commitment to Preston, but there were still concerns that the saga would affect North End players today.
There was to be no repeat of the struggles of last season, after Neil had been linked with West Brom. North End were committed, determined and carried out Neil’s instructions perfectly.
Hopefully it’s all behind us now, and Neil can get on with the job; a job he’s doing remarkably well this season. The weekend will come to an end with Preston as Championship leaders, so let’s relish that rare situation.