Preston North End 2-1 Tranmere Rovers

North End bounced back from mid-week defeat with a PNE Day victory over Tranmere Rovers. A crowd of 17,281 saw Preston extend their league run to six consecutive victories.

Graham Alexander put the Lilywhites ahead from the spot in the 37th minute after Ian Goodison bundled Neil Mellor to the ground, giving North End a half-time lead. Everton loanee José Baxter was making his Tranmere debut and he marked it with a goal, earning Tranmere parity on the hour. However, substitute Danny Mayor gave North End the three points just 10 minutes later with a cool finish after a well-worked counter. Paul Parry was sent off with 15 minutes to play, but Preston held on for the win with a battling display.

PNE Day got into full swing with pre-match entertainment from various sporting organisations from in and around Preston, including the Preston City trampolining club, the Larches and Savick amateur boxing club and the Truth Dance Company. The demonstrations were in celebration of Preston’s European City of Sport status for 2012.

Specially reduced ticket prices saw the highest attendance of the season so far, with over 17,000 bums on seats. The North End crowd would leave Deepdale relatively pleased, but not particularly enthralled; despite securing the three points, PNE never really looked convincing and were somewhat fortunate to win the game.

Winger Lucas Akins looked a threat all game, and in the opening stages of the game, he licked stand-in Paul Parry for pace before being brought down. Parry received a fairly harsh booking which would later result in his sending off.

Phil Brown noted how poor ball retention was a worry against Southampton in the Carling Cup, and the issue reared its head again in the first 30 minutes; North End simply couldn’t keep the ball and were struggling to string even a couple of passes together. Tranmere were dealing with the 4-3-3 system tremendously well, and making good use of their added width, regularly exploiting the flanks. Conversely, North End’s attack was being suffocated by some tight marking from the Tranmere back four.

Rovers were really hammering the wings, and a superb cross from Welsh was met, unconvincingly, by the head of McGuirk who ought to have done better. North End’s defence was looking increasingly shaky, but with practically their first real attack of the game, they almost went 1-0 up. Paul Coutts put Jamie Proctor through on goal and he did well to round the keeper, but his touch took him a bit too far, leaving him with a tight angle for the finish. He struck the ball, but, to the dismay of the white half of the Kop, it ended up in the stands.

Proctor probably should have given the Lilywhites an undeserved lead, but the chance got the North End fans on their feet, and gave the players a boost. Five minutes later and North End got their goal. A long ball down the wing from Parry was brought down by Mellor, but then so was he; centre-back Goodison bundled the striker over and Paul Tierney pointed straight to the spot. Graham Alexander had already missed a penalty in front of the Kop earlier this season, but this time he sent the keeper the wrong way and grabbed his first goal since returning to North End in the summer.

North End kept up the pressure and had a decent chance after Hume sent the ball out wide. Mellor made up at least 10 yards on his man and beat him, showing electrifying pace. He burst into the penalty area but his shot from a tight angle was easily stopped by Fon Williams.

Tranmere started to pile on the pressure towards the end of the half and earned four consecutive corners, but nothing came of them; the impressive Arestidou claiming the 4th confidently. Moments later, Showumni linked up with Baxter, and his decent effort was saved convincingly by Arestidou.

North End went into the break with the lead, but would need to step it up in the second half as a very physical Tranmere side looked threatening. From the restart, Tranmere’s dominance continued and Arestidou once again had to deal with an onslaught of pressure.

Mellor and Alexander had half chances at the other end of the pitch, but nothing clear cut. On the hour, Tranmere got the most clear cut opportunity of the game – an open net. Danger man Lucas Akins’ deflected shot crashed against the post and José Baxter tapped in the rebound from close range, sending the Rovers’ fans into rapture.

McGurk almost made it 2-1 to Tranmere, but his curling free-kick went narrowly over the bar and landed on top of Arestidou’s goal. Southampton’s Lallana proved to be an inspired subsitution on Wednesday night, and Phil Brown looked to be taking notes from Nigel Adkins; the introduction of Danny Mayor proved to be crucial, as the gaffer called the change his ‘best substitution of all time’.

On the break, Mellor found Coutts who managed to help the ball onto an unmarked Mayor who found himself in plenty of space in a 1-on-1 position. His cool finish put the Lilywhites 2-1 ahead, but they still had a way to go before they could rest easy.

A nervy ending was made worse when the previously booked Parry was sent off for a challenge on his man Akins on the byline. Akins did well to chase a long ball, keep it in and turn Parry inside out, but as he was charging into the area, the Welsh winger threw him to the ground and was dismissed for his second bookable offence.

Phil Brown made two changes to see the game out – Ashbee replaced the restless Hume, and, interestingly, David Gray replaced goalscorer Danny Mayor whose brief cameo came to an end with 15 minutes to go. The Leyland-born youngster received a standing ovation for his contribution.

North End handled the challenge well and almost increased their lead with a little help from Ash Taylor who almost headed the ball into the back of his own net. Tranmere repeatedly assaulted the North End penalty area with colossal throw-ins, but it was North End shirts who got on the end of all of them.

Four minutes of added time passed excruciatingly slowly, but Preston managed to make it a sixth successive league victory and now sit in an enviable position – 5th, with games in hand. If the Lilywhites get a result against Wycombe on Tuesday, they leapfrog Sheffield United to go 2nd, and still have a game in hand over the Yorkshire club.

– Rory

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3 Responses

  1. […] Full Match Report | Highlights […]

  2. Fantastic report; what a game! North End have had a great start to the season and Saturday’s second half performance, in front of 17,000 fans, was just what we needed to help drive the fans back through the turnstiles.

  3. Agreed! I just wish they could have seen a more assertive performance. The win was good for us, but I don’t know if the performance was impressive enough to draw that crowd back again.

    PNE Day is a good initiative, though, and I hope we get more than two fixtures next season, seeing how big a success they’re proving to be.

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