The job, as they say, was a good’un as North End ran out comfortable 3-1 winners over Danny Cowley’s Huddersfield Town on Saturday.

Goals from Jayden Stockley, Alan Browne and Paul Gallagher ensured the Lilywhites held on to second place in the Championship table as we head into the final international break of 2019.

It reminded me in large parts of the victory over Stoke City at Deepdale earlier this season, not just for the scoreline but the way in which we appeared in total control for the vast majority of the game, only slipping up due to a momentary lapse of concentration which resulted in their only shot on target and goal.

Speaking of Deepdale so far this season, Saturday’s result made it 7 wins from 9 in our impressive unbeaten first third of the season at home as well as notching another 3 goals in PR1 taking our total goals at Deepdale to a stunning 25 in those 9 home matches.

Declan Rudd

In a game in which he wasn’t given many tests, Declan was solid enough for the majority of the game. Noticeably more commanding of his area and decisive in claiming Huddersfield’s forward balls than he had been at Charlton last weekend.

His refusal to come for a ball and then flapping at the resulting corner late on at the Valley was cause for concern for some, so the decisiveness was good to see today. Still, he seemed less than authoritative during crosses and corner situations. Their goal took a bit of a deflection too so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on that one.

Rating – 6

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Darnell Fisher

Another great game for Darnell at right-back, comfortably repelling a number of Terriers’ attacks down their left side. Showing his usual combination of defensive nouse and confidence in playing forward, he also contributed to a lot of North End’s play down the right-hand side, building on his interplay with Tom Barkhuizen which has shone in recent weeks.

He put this good performance in peril moments before half time, however, as during a clash with eventual Huddersfield goalscorer Juninho Bacuna, he appeared to raise his hands to the midfielder’s neck. It was something referees often take a very dim view of and perhaps he was lucky not to see red.

Rating – 7

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Patrick Bauer

In a word; immense. The sort of performance we’ve come to expect from the big German at the heart of the defence. Huddersfield were often, particularly in the first half, forced to resort to a long ball up towards Elias Kachunga and saw these aerial bombardments repelled time and time again by the immovable object that is Patrick Bauer.

Also crucial was some sharp defensive work during a late spell of Huddersfield pressure following their goal. Alex Pritchard darted in from the left-hand side to the byline and his pull-back was looking promising, but Bauer showed superb anticipation to step in, clear and relieve the pressure, ensuring that Huddersfield’s consolation goal was nothing more than just that.

Rating – 8

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Ben Davies

A solid display from Ben Davies on Saturday, continuing his fruitful partnership with Bauer at the back. His confidence on the ball was important on a couple of occasions in the second half as Huddersfield began to play at a higher tempo. This didn’t appear to faze Davies in a game in which he also won 83% of his aerial duels against a tall, physical Terriers side.

Rating – 7

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Joe Rafferty

As his unremitting deputisation for Andrew Hughes goes on, Raffety found himself at left full-back again on Saturday and in the first half at least, had his usual solid showing as he plugged the gap in the back four. The slight naĂŻvety he can sometimes show did begin to affect his game in the second half, however.

We were given a warning sign when he got caught in possession by Alex Pritchard, the ball falling to the uncharacteristically quiet Karlan Grant who dragged his shot wide. However, failing to learn from this Raff then rather over-zealously threw his body into a challenge it seemed unlikely he would win, the ball breaking to Bacuna who ran into a backtracking North End defence before poking home Huddersfield’s goal.

Rating – 6

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Ryan Ledson

Ledson didn’t have a “poor” game by any stretch of the imagination, but it did seem to pass him by somewhat. In the first half, he didn’t have a great deal to do in terms of breaking up Huddersfield attacks and then, in the second period, Huddersfield resorted to playing the ball long much of the time, passing Ledson by in a more literal way.

Similarly to Fisher, there was a particular moment that tainted his performance in the first half. A rash challenge high up the pitch. Arguably higher than Ledson should be finding himself in that situation and certainly high in another way. His raised foot challenge on Tommy Elphick injuring the experienced Huddersfield defender and perhaps could have warranted more than the yellow card that it received.

Rating – 6

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Paul Gallagher

The phrase “running out of superlatives” is becoming almost as clichéd as comparing Gally to a fine wine that only gets better with age, but I feel both are necessary here. A vintage performance from Paul Gallagher at Deepdale this weekend.

Assisting (or as good as) the opener, he also played a big part in the second goal before slamming home the penalty for the third. He certainly came back to haunt Huddersfield, having terrorised the Terriers the last time the two sides met at Deepdale; another 3-1 win in which North End’s skipper assisted two goals before netting himself.

Rating – 8

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Tom Barkhuizen

Barky was a thorn in Huddersfield’s side for long periods on Saturday afternoon, and that was without quite seeming at his best. His pace was a problem for Danny Cowley’s men from the moment he seized on Trevor Chalobah’s wayward crossfield pass to set up a chance for Jayden Stockley in the first half, before crossing superbly to create Alan Browne’s goal.

He was again full of running in the second period, his cross handled by Terrence Kongolo for the penalty but then saw less and less of the ball as North End began to sit a little deeper, particularly following Huddersfield’s goal.

Rating – 7

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Alan Browne

I’ll start off by saying I think Alan Browne’s goal will do him the world of good. It was certainly overdue this season, but his deftly taken half volley to put North End 2-0 up is the sort of moment that can act as a springboard for a player with the ability of Browne, just by way of being a big confidence-booster.

He was much more effective from the outset than he was against Blackburn Rovers a couple of weeks ago, starting in the “number 10” role in the middle of the 3 supporting the striker, the role usually occupied this season by Daniel Johnson.

It was a good showing all-round from Browne, finding himself able to join the attack in a way he’s found it difficult to do so having played a handful of different roles this season. Notably in the move that lead to the goal he himself scored, he played a vital role in the interplay that made it possible for Gallagher to spray the ball out to Barkhuizen to play the killer final ball.

Rating – 8

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Sean Maguire

Danny Simpson found Maguire difficult to handle on Saturday. Operating in his new favoured position; in off the left-hand side of the attack. Seani was his usual boisterous and pesky self throughout the game.

One of the ways he has been most effective recently is getting his body in between his opponent and the ball, either taking control of the ball and driving into space or, as happened a lot on Saturday, drawing the foul from the opposition. He looked a little bit tired toward the end and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him given a bit of a break from the side in the coming games.

Rating – 7

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Jayden Stockley

Another good showing from Jayden Stockley after a good game and a half against Charlton and Rovers respectively. He continued to improve on much of what has been causing some concern for fans over the early part of this season. Most notably he won 9 aerial duels, 64% of the total number he competed in, showing himself to be much more effective as a target man than we have often seen this year.

His link-up play was once more good to watch. His first time touches off to the 3 players behind him, namely Barkhuizen, Browne and Maguire, were sharp and showed how well he has been integrating into the XI of late. The tactical change to get that supporting 3 closer to Stockley to support him was noticeably beneficial to his game. He also took his goal well, questions would have been asked should he have failed to convert but he reacted sharply to Gallagher’s free-kick coming back off the post to give us the lead inside 4 minutes.

Rating – 7

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Substitutes

Brad Potts

He’s had a funny time of late being in and out of the side but he struggled to make an impact on the game yesterday. In fairness, he was brought on to do a job but looked like he struggled to get into the swing of things. He’ll certainly have better days.

Rating – 5

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David Nugent

Similar to Potts, he struggled to really affect the game yesterday and the swing in the play when he came on was noticeable with Huddersfield playing higher up the pitch and with a bit more verve about them after they got the goal back. As with Potts, he will have better days.

Rating – 5

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