Preston sit second in the Championship table after a 3-2 home win over Blackburn Rovers.

North End came into the game with an unbeaten home league record this season, and a great history in derbies under Alex Neil. However, this one looked to be getting away from Preston in the first half.

Sam Gallagher was the chief tormentor; his first-minute header hit the post before cannoning into the net off Declan Rudd. That may have gone down as an own goal, but Gallagher wasn’t to be denied, curling a superb finish past Rudd to make it 2-0 just 10 minutes later.

Preston had a mountain to climb, but climb it they did. Christian Walton misjudged a looping Darnell Fisher cross, allowing Seani Maguire to nip in nod back for Tom Barkhuizen to score.

Sam Gallagher of Blackburn Rovers celebrates scoring against Preston. (Photo by Rachel Holborn – BRFC/Getty Images)

Alan Browne was dragged down for a penalty, with Daniel Johnson dispatched, before Barkhuizen completed the comeback with an outstanding finish into the top corner.

Blackburn couldn’t haul themselves back into the game, and North End took all three points. To be second after 14 games is quite remarkable for Preston, and much of the credit must go to Alex Neil for Saturday’s turnaround…

A game of two halves

It’s the oldest cliche in football, but Saturday’s game was a perfect example. Preston were sloppy and anxious at the back, second to every ball, slow in the final third and simply didn’t look up for a derby. Those are things we’ve barely seen under Alex Neil, but they all came out at once in a dismal first half.

Neil didn’t sit around and wait though. He acknowledged his mistake, and made a fascinating first half substitution. Off went Paul Gallagher, Preston captain and fan favourite, for striker Jayden Stockley, who had barely featured this season.

Preston North End’s Tom Barkhuizen celebrates scoring against Blackburn. (Photo by Alex Dodd – CameraSport via Getty Images)

That changed the game, with Preston getting higher up the pitch and putting more pressure on the ball. Blackburn struggled to get out, and whilst the first goal was fortuitous, it was coming.

North End just don’t give up. Last month, Neil found his side 2-0 down at home to Bristol City. That time, it was a 3-3 draw in the end, but he got a 3-2 win this time in a stunning turnaround.

Neil’s honesty with his mistakes and ability to change his tactics mid-game are great qualities, and Tony Mowbray showed neither yesterday. That’s why Preston got back into the game – not because of favourable refereeing decisions as Mowbray claims.

An apology to Jayden Stockley

Personally, Stockley hasn’t convinced me. Even at half time yesterday, I felt that Stockley didn’t truly want to battle with a centre back and win headers, certainly not in the style Jordan Hugill or Joe Garner used to at least.

Neil’s change was understandable, as Preston just couldn’t get the ball to stick in attack. Stockley didn’t really manage to do that before half time, but what a display afterwards.

Preston North End’s Tom Barkhuizen celebrates scoring the winning goal with Jayden Stockley. (Photo by Alex Dodd – CameraSport via Getty Images)

Stockley ended up winning 13 headers, the most of any player on the pitch. More than Blackburn’s two centre backs combined, and that’s another story from the turnaround. Blackburn couldn’t cope with Stockley’s flick ons and link up play, with the second and third goals coming from Stockley’s centre forward play.

Stockley only had one shot at goal, but it was a display that allowed the likes of Alan Browne, Daniel Johnson, Seani Maguire and Tom Barkhuizen to thrive. They all fed off Stockley, and gave Blackburn more to think about than in the first half.

Stockley’s season hasn’t gone to plan so far, but he at least proved me wrong on Saturday – and for that, he must receive a big apology, having shown he’s up for the fight when Preston needed him most.

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