Preston North End gained revenge over their Lancashire rivals on Friday night with a 2-1 win over Blackburn Rovers.
Preston fans were apprehensive ahead of the fixture but Alex Neil’s team turned in a comfortable display to pick up another win at Ewood Park.
The North End team was one that looked shaky against Rotherham United last weekend, and Neil made a few changes to the personnel and formation.
Even still, not many were expecting such a mature display from a newly assembled side. Seeing out the second half despite Rovers dominating possession is a huge positive for this new-look team going forward.
Ledson was up for the battle
Going into derby games you need a certain type of player in your team. Ben Pearson and Darnell Fisher were exactly that type of player. With those players having moved on to pastures new it was time for Ryan Ledson to step up. He’s come on leaps and bounds in the last year and he loves a battle.
From the first minute he was getting stuck in. Preston needed that bite in midfield and he was perhaps unfortunate to pick up a yellow card for a strong but fair challenge on Tyrhys Dolan. He was lucky not to receive another one shortly after, but his performance encapsulated what Derby day is all about. His assist for the second goal was a superb corner whipped in and it was easy for Liam Lindsay to apply the finish. Ledson will have a very bright career at North End with performances like that.
Cunningham with a touch of class
It’s almost as if he’s never been away. Three years since his last goal, which was also for Preston, he scored the opener on Friday night and it was a glorious strike. On his first start since his return in January, he controlled Alan Browne’s cross field pass before unleashing a beautiful shot which gave Thomas Kaminski no chance.
It was a welcome return to the side for Cunningham who had a brief spell at Ewood Park last season. You can only imagine the scenes if 7,500 fans were in the away end for that. He clearly enjoyed it and he adds that bit of quality to left back that has been lacking since…. his own departure.
Evans led the line well
Ched Evans led the line with support from the pacey Tom Barkhuizen. The Welshman caused problems throughout and it led to a very shaky performance from Jarrad Branthwaite; the defender on loan from Everton. Darnell Fisher used to be good at winning free kicks out of nothing and Evans proved he can do that also. His hold up play was good and he was a constant threat to the Rovers defence. He could have won a penalty himself when he tried to deceive the officials but he did a sufficient job, and when Emil Riis came on it allowed him to wear down the defence even more. Perfect for this type of away game.
Iversen is already a key part of the team
With the influx of signings arriving at Preston in January it’s almost been forgotten how well Daniel Iversen has settled in between the sticks. The loss of Declan Rudd was a big blow, but the ‘keeper on loan from Leicester City has settled in with ease.
On Friday night he made a fantastic save at the end of the first half. Just after Blackburn got the one goal back they came close to another on the stroke of half time. Adam Armstrong looked to have got his second in a matter of minutes but Iversen dived low to his right to claw the ball away. It was a crucial moment and underlined how smoothly the Dane has come into this side. The absence of Rudd hasn’t been felt and that is a huge compliment to Iversen.
Dack nowhere to be seen again
Ahead of every Lancashire Derby that Preston come up against Blackburn they are always reminded of the quality of Bradley Dack. Of course, he is a great player and Rovers fans will be delighted to see him back after a long injury lay-off. But yet again he failed to turn up against North End.
He’s usually been in Ben Pearson’s pocket and on Friday it was a combination of the team that kept him quiet. Blackburn enjoyed a lot of possession but couldn’t penetrate the Preston defence. Plenty of hopeful balls were put into the box but were headed away by the five-man defence. Dack was unable to create any magic and any real opportunities.
Likewise Harvey Elliott, who was heavily talked about pre-match despite being on the bench, was unable to conjure up an equaliser. All in all, the newly assembled Preston team worked together well and provided a strong, committed performance to bring the three points back to Deepdale.