Preston North End returned to winning ways at Deepdale on Saturday with a 2-1 victory over Hull City. Despite a turgid first half which saw us go a goal down after switching off from the second phase of a corner, we turned it around to ensure we stayed in the play-offs and in touch with Fulham, Brentford and Nottingham Forest.

It was far from the best performance we’ve seen this season, but one or two players did stand out for North End.

Declan Rudd

Declan wasn’t troubled a great deal by Hull City, with the visitors only having three shots on target all game. He didn’t stand much chance with the goal, with the team switching off, and not concentrating on the short corner.

It was a great ball put in by Callum Elder and Malik Wilks couldn’t miss his header from a couple of yards out. As alluded to in my ‘5 Things‘ article, at half time Rudd was met with an angry supporter in the Town End which was unnecessary.

However, Rudd’s distribution could have been better on Saturday, but apart from that, you can’t fault him for too much.

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Rating – 6

Darnell Fisher

How good was it to have this man back in the side? It took just 11 seconds of the game for Josh Magennis to be riled up by him, with both players ending up on the floor and Magennis pointing his finger right in Darnell’s face.

The right-back was defensively astute throughout but also provided us with a lot going forward. When 1-0 down, Paul Gallagher picked the ball up on the edge of the box, and you can see Fisher calling for it at the back post. He controlled it well, and maybe could have had a shot on goal.

We would all love to see him get his first goal for the club, but he pulled it across for Seanie Maguire who somehow couldn’t turn it in. Fisher went on to win the penalty with another burst into the box and could have easily been the man of the match.

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Rating – 8

Patrick Bauer

A solid enough display from the big German. Hull City have a lot of height with Tom Eaves and Josh Magennis leading the line. The forwards didn’t cause too many problems though aside from the goal.

Bauer was as confident as ever and I feel him and Davies’ composure at the back was key again. Fans can often be frustrated with us passing it around at the back, but they take the time looking for the right ball, and there’s nothing wrong with keeping possession at all and building the attack.

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Rating – 7

Ben Davies

Much like Bauer, Davies was solid at the back, with one or two good balls forward as ever. Some things he does just ooze class, but perhaps one of the centre backs could have been better for the corner which the goal came from.

It was a great ball in by Callum Elder but Wilks was left with a free header. You would have to go back to the 14th September for the last time we kept a clean sheet in the league at Deepdale. That’s 13 games, and definitely something Bauer and Davies won’t be happy about.

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Rating – 7

Andrew Hughes

Strong in the air as we are used to seeing, but I felt Hughes had limited options in front of him. The wingers were very narrow and there was a lot of space down that left-hand side, especially in the second half.

Hughes could have pushed on more when we were chasing the game, but was still good on the ball and created opportunities for the player further forward. He needs to stay injury-free for the rest of the season if we are to be at our strongest.

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Rating – 7

Ben Pearson

A performance that we have become accustomed to seeing from Pearo. He was everywhere on the pitch again, flying in with crucial tackles.

Perhaps not as good on the ball as we have seen in recent games and he was unable to play any key defence-splitting passes, but you can’t really fault him. His passion spreads around the rest of the team, and to the fans as well.

He had a great driving run in the second half, carrying the ball past numerous players, bursting into the box before hitting a shot just wide. The sponsor’s man of the match for the umpteenth time this season.

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Rating – 8

Paul Gallagher

For the first 60 minutes of the game, I thought Gally was poor and has perhaps been off the pace for the last few games he’s played. His passing was off, and we are used to seeing him putting the ball on a plate for his teammates.

That wasn’t the case on Saturday with a few wayward passes going out of play. When we were awarded the penalty, I must admit I was worried. I didn’t have the confidence I usually would in him, but I needn’t have been pessimistic.

He smashed the penalty past George Long for his sixth goal of the season and got us back in the game. His performance picked up after that before being taken off for Brad Potts late on.

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Rating – 7

Josh Harrop

It was good to see Harrop back in the side after a strong January which saw him being nominated for Championship Player of the Month.

Brought in to bring us the creativity which was being missed through Daniel Johnson, he was unable to make much of an impact on the game in the first half.

Josh was moved out wide when Alan Browne was brought on and offered more out on the left. He came very close with a free-kick late on which he won himself and forced George Long into tipping it over the bar but in all honesty, I think it was heading over anyway.

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Rating – 6

Tom Barkhuizen

Barky had a good chance in the first half with a header from a good Sean Maguire cross. He could have done with dinking it over George Long but it was a good point-blank save from the Hull ‘keeper and Barky then knocked the rebound over the bar.

Like many others, Barkhuizen came into the game more in the second half. His pace causing problems on the counter-attack. Many of our better attacks in the game came from him and Fisher linking up well on the right-hand side. A solid game again from Barky.

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Rating – 7

Scott Sinclair

A quiet afternoon for Sinclair, and in truth his third quiet game in a row. He didn’t offer too much against Stoke City and Millwall and was correctly taken off for Alan Browne against Hull City.

He didn’t do anything of note and he just clearly needs to get involved more, sometimes makes a few good runs off the ball but needs to be on the ball more so we can see his magic.

There’s only 12 games left of the season, he’s been brought in to give us something extra in this promotion push and needs to start showing it soon. In my opinion, he’ll be lucky to keep his place on Tuesday.

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Rating – 5

Sean Maguire

Preferred to David Nugent and Jayden Stockley on Saturday, the crowd were willing him to get back on the scoresheet. He had a good chance in the first half with a header going just wide, and also put that good aforementioned ball in for Barky shortly after.

100% should have scored to make it 1-1 though when Fisher laid the ball across from him and from just a few yards out he could only manage to get his thigh on it before it was cleared off the line.

It looked a certain goal and he should have put the ball through the net from there. The Town End was left in disbelief.

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Rating – 6

Substitutes

Alan Browne

It’s rare I would give a substitute such a high score but such was the influence of Browne and Jayden Stockley they deserve praise. Browne looked a bit tired against Millwall so it wasn’t too much of a surprise to see him rested. But when he came on, his experience which belies his years shone through.

He was confident to take the ball and run into dangerous areas. Very nearly won us a penalty, but his pass led to the one that was awarded anyway. His control and pass for the one-two with Stockley that led to his winner was great.

His header as well was absolutely first class. A hit of the badge on his chest in celebration shows what this club means to Browney. A top performance.

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Rating – 8

Jayden Stockley

Likewise with Stockley, a good impact off the bench which we have seen before. He caused havoc for the Hull defence with his non-stop running putting them under pressure forcing them to give away throw-ins and free kicks.

It’s worth noting the impact that he has on the crowd as well. Each contribution he makes leads to a huge roar and the noise levels rise up again. He’s clearly liked both by his teammates and the fans.

A superb assist for Browne’s goal and he could potentially be huge for us between now and the end of the season.

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Rating – 8

Brad Potts

Only on for the last few minutes as a late replacement for Gally.

Rating – N/A

Don’t forget to give the latest episode of From the Finney Meets… Andrew Lonergan a listen.