A first away win of the season for North End saw Alex Neil’s side move up to third place in the Championship table. This is the best start we’ve had to a league season since Alex Neil’s first season in charge. After 8 games in that season we were sat 4th with 15 points on the table. We eventually finished up 7th that season, missing out on the play-offs by 2 points.

Yesterday at Birmingham it was Sean Maguire’s third goal of the season that ensured all three points came back to Lancashire. To be honest, another solid defensive display meant that was never really in doubt. Back-to-back clean sheets and with Manchester City to come on Tuesday, it’s a great time be a Preston fan. So, here are our player ratings from the 1-0 win at St Andrews.

Declan Rudd

Another clean sheet for Declan but in truth, he wasn’t really troubled by Birmingham. He commanded his area well on corners when Blues had a couple of half-chances, and despite the home side having a goal correctly disallowed for an offside, Rudd had a quiet afternoon and that was down to the solid defensive work of the players in front of him.

Rating – 7

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Darnell Fisher

Darnell was his usual self on Saturday; a player that easily winds up the opposition and their fans with his time-wasting and other antics. You’re more than happy to see it on your own team but hate it when it’s against you. He won quite a few free-kicks yet again, which helped break up the play, and got up and down the right flank well.

He was up against promising young prospect, Jude Bellingham, a 16-year-old who is clearly already a fans favourite. But the youngster was kept quiet, as Fisher’s experience shone through.

Rating – 7

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Patrick Bauer

This man just seems to get better and better with every game. Another dominant performance in the heart of the defence. Everything that comes into the box is met with the German’s head. In the past when we were 1 goal up away from home, I would be worrying in the last few minutes, but now it always feels more comfortable when Bauer is there to keep the danger out.

Jubilant Preston fans sang his name throughout and carried on in the streets of Birmingham well after the game. ‘We’ve got Bauer, Patrick Bauer!’.

Rating – 9

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Ben Davies

We’ve known he’s a classy defender for some time, and now that he has Bauer alongside him, it has further highlighted just how good Ben is. He made numerous key interceptions and tackles on Saturday. This partnership, whilst still in its infancy, has to be one of the strongest in the league. If they stay injury-free and in form then they will be instrumental in any success we have this season.

Rating – 8

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Andrew Hughes

Great to see him back in the team after over a month out. One of the stars of last season, however, Joe Rafferty has filled in for him exceptionally during his time out with injury. Raff could perhaps count himself unlucky to miss out yesterday, but we know that Hughes is more natural in this position.

A quiet game for the Welshman but he can be forgiven after missing the last 6 games and only getting 60 minutes or so under his belt in a Lancashire Cup game against Chorley on Tuesday just gone. Jacques Maghoma caused a few problems for him when he came on, but at the end of the day, a clean sheet away from home can’t be argued with.

Rating – 6

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Paul Gallagher

Back in the side after being rested last week, and Gally was his usual self, controlling possession in the centre of the park. His calming influence is crucial when now and again you just need to slow the pace of the game down, put your foot on the ball and keep possession.

The dead-ball specialist stepped up when we were awarded a free kick in an ideal position for him. He took everyone by surprise when he kept it low, hit the post and Seani Maguire was there to knock in the rebound.

Rating – 7

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Ben Pearson

Always a key player for us, and yet again he was making big tackles and hassling the opponents at every opportunity on Saturday. We’ve got that used to his performances that perhaps he doesn’t stand out as much as he did previously, we’ve become accustomed to it but we are so lucky to have him.

Birmingham couldn’t get through us in the centre of the park, with our midfield three stunting any attacks attempted. He’s crucial for us, and another game without picking up a yellow card is a bonus.

Rating – 7

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Daniel Johnson

A great performance from the Jamaican again. Not his usual attacking display that we’ve seen numerous times this season but his defensive work was key. He closed down very well, made some good tackles and played the ball forward at every opportunity. He’s nailed down that first-team place now, and with Alan Browne sitting on the bench we’re very lucky with the options we have in the centre of midfield.

Rating – 8

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Josh Harrop

Another player who’s had a great start to the season, and it was needed after a stop and start two years at North End. Comfortable on the ball, and always wanting to get forward and take on his man. Linked up well with Sean Maguire and Tom Barkhuizen in a very fluid front three.

Rating – 7

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Sean Maguire

2 goals in 2 games for the Irishman. He was quick to react to Gallagher’s free-kick coming back off the post, and it’s obvious he now has his confidence back after a dip in form towards the end of last season. He looked threatening coming in off the left, and interchanged with Barkhuizen well, with their pace causing all sorts of problems for the Birmingham backline.

Rating – 8

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Tom Barkhuizen

Barky is playing the ‘false number 9’ role well. His pace and agility are always going to be handy in that central role, especially if he can get in behind the defence. He doesn’t actually get many touches of the ball in that role, but he’s a handful and can come out wide to push on down the wing as well. Right now our tactics are working well, and he can switch positions with ease.

Rating – 7

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Substitutes

Alan Browne

All three subs were brought on in the last 10 minutes to help us see out the game but didn’t have too much time to have a big impact. Browney took the armband as he replaced Gally and ensured we finished the game getting all 3 points and helped us see out the final 10 minutes effectively.

Rating – 6

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Brad Potts

Pottsy is starting to become a more regular sub now. Someone to come on and see out the game. He holds the ball up well out wide, wins free-kicks and throw-ins and does a good job when needed. Still coming back from fitness and getting match sharp so is doing well considering.

Rating – 6

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Joe Rafferty

He did well on the right after coming on for Fisher. Helped keep hold of the ball in the last few minutes, not allowing Birmingham to gain possession and push for an equaliser. Solid enough.

Rating – 6

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