Confident North End make it six in a row

Preston just can’t stop scoring recently; in-form Neil Mellor grabbed his second brace in as many games either side of a wondrous Iain Hume strike to put North End into the play-off places with two games in hand. Mellor gave North End the lead inside 10 minutes, and Hume’s 25-yard rocket restored it after a Niall McGinn tap-in levelled things up in the 21st minute. Then, with a little over 15 minutes left on the clock, Mellor put the game beyond doubt with a volley from inside the Brentford area, tallying his 4th goal in two games.

Both teams arrived at a wet, windy Griffin Park looking to continue a good run of form; North End had won their last five games in a row, whilst Brentford had managed three wins from four.

In the opening minutes, it was North End who were looking the more likely. Neil Mellor has been lauding the 4-3-3 system that Preston have been playing recently, and it was once again the interplay between himself, Proctor and Hume that were causing problems. A bright start saw Hume flick the ball on to Mellor who very nearly found Proctor in the box, but the keeper took the cross well.

A minute later, though, and he failed to deal with a free-kick quite as effectively; an unconvincing flap at the ball saw it fall precariously into a swarm of players in the box, but luckily for him, nothing came of it. From the break, Brentford showed their pace, but an eager, heavy touch allowed Arestidou – in for the injured Turner – to come out and smother the ball.

The first real chance of the game came in the 3rd minute when Hume’s header fell to Proctor, and when his shot hit the Brentford defence, the ball fell to Mellor who, on the turn, hit a right-footed effort, narrowly firing over the bar.

Rookie keeper Arestidou was showing why he’s a more-than-adequate replacement for Turner as he confidently claimed a drilled ball from the right. Then, his distribution saw North End score the first goal of the game with some real route one stuff. The long ball upfield was helped on by Proctor, and Mellor found himself the right side of the defender and slotted home to make it 1-0.

Brentford replied almost immediately but Arestidou got down well to save a close-range effort from Clayton Donaldson, who probably should have done better with the finish. The game then slowed down, but not before a well hit free-kick from Parry found its way to the back stick. The advancing McLean managed to get his head on it in acrobatic fashion, but his effort went wide.

A couple of Brentford free-kicks were dealt with well by the North End defence, but their pressure was telling and they got their equaliser on 21 minutes. Paul Parry has been playing remarkably well out of position at left-back, but in his un-natural role, he was beaten for pace on the right wing, and a low, driven ball across the face of goal saw Arestidou stranded before an unmarked McGinn put away one of the easiest chances he’ll ever score for the equaliser. Whilst he was in the right place, Arestidou could probably have done better with the cross.

The North End strike force were making great use of their considerable physicality, and when Hume floated a deep cross into the Brentford area, Mellor did well to nod the ball back into the area, but it fell just behind Nicholson who was seeking his 3rd goal of the season.

From a Preston set-piece, Brentford went on the counter, but a heavy pass saw the ball go out of play for a PNE throw-in. From the throw, Proctor managed to find Hume who then unleashed a 25-yard thunderbolt which left Lee with no chance, even if he did see it all the way.

Brentford had identified the right flank as a weakness and were looking to exploit it once again. Parry was beaten not once, but twice in a move that resulted in another drilled cross from the wing, but this time Arestidou had grown privy to their tactics and managed to intercept the cross with a low dive across his six yard box before it could do any damage. Hume was again showing flashes of excellence as he used the back of his heel to flick on an aerial ball to Mellor, but he was adjudged to be marginally offside.

Coutts drew a foul, winning a free-kick as the first half drew to a close and North End went in at the break 2-1 up.

Coutts was at it again in the 2nd half; his snaking run was stopped only by a malicious challenge from Douglas who was consequently booked, leaving North End with a free-kick in a dangerous position. Nicholson floated the ball in and Carlisle managed to knock the ball down into the danger zone. McLean swung at the ball but missed completely as the ball fell to the seemingly cursed Mellor whose half-volley rebounded back off the post, conjuring up memories of the recent Yeovil Town game.

Parry, who wasn’t equaling his best performances of the season, then took a knock and seemed to be injured. He climbed back to his feet, but once again faced the right-winger who’d been causing him trouble all game. Brentford again managed to deliver a ball into a dangerous area, but Douglas’ desperate slide couldn’t quite reach the pacey ball.

Preston then enjoyed a spell of pressure as both Hume and Nicholson were narrowly beaten to crosses by the Brentford keeper and then the right back, respectively. North End took the corner short, and from the wide position, Coutts hit a curling effort that ended up on top of the keeper’s net, but was excruciatingly close to dipping into the goal.

North End were floating a myriad of crosses into the Brentford box, but the defence was dealing with them admirably. Another corner then saw Jamie Proctor narrowly put his header over the bar. Brentford were looking for the equaliser, and it felt as if Preston needed another goal just to put the game to bed. Clarke Carlisle gave away a free-kick in a dangerous area but got away with just a warning after his clumsy challenge. The free-kick was driven low and hard, but Arestidou did well to keep it out and hold on to it.

At the other end, Hume was running his socks off and managed to win North End a free-kick in a similar position. The Lilywhites have clearly been working on set-pieces, because in an almost carbon copy move of an earlier chance, they found their 3rd goal of the afternoon. Once again, Barry Nicholson lofted a ball in to the back stick where veteran defender Clarke Carlisle rose and nodded the ball back across the face of goal. Neil Mellor was waiting at the front post and made no mistake to volley home for the winner.

Phil Brown then brought off Coutts for Ian Ashbee, presumably to see the game out and remain dominant in the middle of the park, and that’s exactly what they did. In a commanding last 10 minutes, North End held on to the lead comfortably and nearly added to it through a quick free kick taken by Hume.

The score remained 3-1, though, and it’s now six wins a row for North End. The 892 travelling North End fans are a testament to recent performances, and we hope to see a big crowd against Tranmere on PNE Day next Saturday.

– Rory

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2 Responses

  1. Top reporting. Keep it up.

  2. […] Full Match Report¬†| Highlights (coming soon) […]

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