Stoke City v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship
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Preston post-match notebook: North End fans are well and truly enjoying supporting this club again

1600 Preston fans made the trip to Stoke to see their first football match for over three weeks. Once Covid checks were negotiated they were treated to another three points at the Bet365 Stadium. 

Ryan Lowe made it two wins from two and the fans clearly enjoyed both goals and the end of the match celebrations. 

Potts enjoys new role at right-wing back 

As the team news came out before the game it was a toss up between Alan Browne and Brad Potts on who would play on the right hand side. Browne has excelled in midfield in Ryan Lowe’s first game so it seemed unlikely he would change that. So Potts did indeed take that role and it is something that he is not completely unfamiliar with. 

He’s always a willing runner, and he’s strong too allowing him to be useful in defence and attack in that role. He’s often used in away games as he can help see games out and he’s not afraid to get stuck in as well. Potts scored one of his first goals for North End here three years ago and he managed to get on the scoresheet again. 

Daniel Johnson’s cross was converted by Potts with an acrobatic volley. You could tell how much the goal meant to him with his celebration as he jumped into the fans. He’s had a tough season on the pitch but Lowe may be able to give him a new lease of life.

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Hughes sparks melee with first league goal for three years

Andrew Hughes was left unmarked in the Stoke area to head home Ben Whiteman’s corner. It was a chance for the North End fans to let loose after a festive period without any football to enjoy. 

There was a feel good factor when Ryan Lowe was appointed but that has been put on pause  recently. The fans were desperate to enjoy a first away game under him and they certainly did. Coming from behind to win a game late on is certainly a great way to kick off the new year.

The celebrations from both players and fans were ones to remember. Both were elated and it really does seem like the start of a new era. 

Lowe knows what he’s doing. He does the simple things to get the fans on side. A run and a fist pump to the fans at the end gets everyone on side. It wouldn’t have happened under previous management but this guy wants us to start enjoying supporting this club again and we’re definitely on the right path.

Substitutions used well again

The first change of the day for The Lilywhites came with Scott Sinclair replacing Emil Riis. With a striker making way you may have thought he would leave Riis on as someone more likely to score.

However the Dane made way and Ched Evans stayed on the pitch. The Welshman kept on battling and did very well to win a corner which the second goal then came from. Ryan Ledson and Sean Maguire were then brought on and we’re able to see out the game with some good passing and hold up play in the corners.

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One of the best goals you’ll see this season

Ben Wilmot had only scored three goals in his career before Monday. But on his 100th career appearance he scored one that he will struggle to replicate again in his career. 

The second half was not even a minute old when the ball set up nicely for him and he struck it sweetly into the top right hand corner. Daniel Iversen has no chance and both sets of fans and players were stunned. There weren’t many chances in the first half but this brought the game to life.

Preston were able to respond with two goals of their own and Wilmot will be devastated that goal couldn’t even win a point for his side. 

Left wing-back remains a concern

Josh Earl again a struggled on Monday for me. He saw a lot of the ball with Daniel Johnson finding space down the left side too. He lacks an urgency on the ball and often stops allowing the opposition defence to get back in numbers.

His crossing needs to improve as that area is a key attacking outlet with this formation. His defensive part of his game is sufficient for now but we can definitely improve in that area. Greg Cunningham may not be the full time answer and there aren’t many other options in the squad. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if this is an area that Ryan Lowe looks at in the transfer window.

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