North End made it 3 wins from 3 at Deepdale with a narrow win against Sheffield Wednesday yesterday. A beautiful August day saw Daniel Johnson get on the scoresheet again with 2 penalties giving PNE the edge, despite a nervy final few minutes after a Steven Fletcher header gave the Wendies late hope.
North End just about stood strong and climbed up to 6th in the table which is not to be sniffed at even at this early stage. Here is how we thought the players rated:
Didn’t have too many saves to make during the game as we limited Wednesday to 3 shots on target. Couldn’t do an awful lot about Fletcher’s goal but he generally looks slightly more imposing than he has done in the past and dealt with Wednesday’s aerial bombardment fairly well. His long kick led to our first penalty. Solid from Dec.
Up against a winger who has started the season very well in Kadeem Harris, Darnell definitely won that battle with his usual aggression and proactive defending. Only got beat once in the first half but in general, he kept Harris very quiet and for me, he has developed into one of the best right-backs in the league defensively. As always, he could offer more going forward but another very strong performance from Fisher.
Against a very direct Wednesday side Bauer faced probably his toughest opponent yet in terms of an aerial battle in Steven Fletcher. The big German performed well again before injury cut his afternoon short on 62 minutes. Bauer only won 4 of his 9 duels but made it hard for Fletcher to make clean contact with long balls. To be honest, Pat made it a tough afternoon for him in general. We lost a bit of control and physicality when he went off, and he is a very important member of the defensive unit.
Another performance that we have come to expect from Davies, very composed on and off the ball, excellent reader of the game with 5 clearances, and an 80% ground duel success – definitely his main strength. Fletcher and Nuhiu caused him a few problems in the air, as they usually do, and Fletcher got the better of him for the goal. Despite that, he contributed well to our possession dominance with 34 accurate passes, and he is so important to both sides of our game.
On his unnatural side once again, Raff did everything that was expected of him defensively up against a decent Championship winger in Jacob Murphy. Raff is a patient defender who doesn’t really engage in physical combat (only 1 aerial duel won and 0 ground duels won), but positionally he is solid and didn’t let us down. Solid if not spectacular.
Another very mature performance from the best defensive midfielder in the Championship. Defensively strong as usual, winning 4 of his 7 duels and committing only 3 fouls. Got the better of Bannan who was in the advanced midfield role. In possession, as Wednesday sat off us, he was instrumental in orchestrating play with 54 touches and 38 accurate passes. Seems to be more sensible with referees this season (so far) as well.
For me, Browne is much more suited to the no.10 role where he can press, run the channels, and get onto the end of things in dangerous areas. Alongside Pearson in a deeper role, he struggled to impose himself, completing only 25 passes, and he had no shots in the 96 minutes. However, you always get energy and combativeness from Browne and he won 9 of his 14 ground duels and nullified Wednesday’s midfield. However, I think he is better further forward.
Not the best display from Bill, who can offer so much more than he did yesterday. Withdrawn after 58 minutes, he was uncharacteristically wasteful, losing possession 21 times and completing only 15 passes. Nothing he tried really came off and our main threat came down the other side and Bill struggled to get the better of Morgan Fox, who is a seasoned Championship left-back. Bodin will have much more productive days.
DJ continues to impress in the no. 10 role that many fans have been eager to see him in for quite some time. With a free license to roam from side to side and link play in the attacking third, DJ offers more technicality than Browne in that role, with an incredible 96% pass completion rate and 41 touches against Wednesday. His heatmap shows him all over the final third, and he is hard to pick up. Maintained his 100% penalty conversion rate in league games and he was the coolest player on the pitch. DJ also won 3 out of 3 tackles. Great performance.
Maguire continues to look sharp so far this season, much like he did in 2017/18 and he won 2 penalties thanks to his low centre of gravity and his ability to get his body between man and ball. He gave Odubajo a torrid afternoon and despite not looking like scoring himself, he picks up clever positions on the pitch and is always a threat when he’s on the ball. Regained possession 5 times (2 times in the final third) and looks to have regained that sharpness that evaded him last season. Having already won 3 penalties this season, he looks back to his razor-sharp self and hopefully his injury woes are way behind him.
Really struggled to impose himself due to his lack of mobility and athleticism. He only won 5 of his 17 aerial duels and completed only 6 passes in 96 minutes. He lost possession 8 times and really lacked sharpness, perhaps due to a lack of game time. Performed admirably in the centre of a back 5 to see the game out but he needs to do a lot more off the ball to impact games in a way that Neil wants. Disappointing but hopefully gets more game time in the Cup in midweek to improve his sharpness.
Came on for Bauer and in his 30 minutes on the pitch, he performed as well as can be expected in his first taste of league action since May. He won 2 out his 2 aerial duels and made 2 clearances. He only made 2 passes however it was mainly backs to the walls stuff while he was on the pitch and he did well against very experienced forwards in Nuhiu and Fletcher. Made a vital interception from a Forestieri pass that looked destined to be tapped in by Fletcher.
Came on for the ineffective Bodin in the hope of stretching the game as they chased, but it didn’t really materialise. Failed to track Adam Reach who crossed for Wednesday’s goal, and made only 3 accurate passes. Got in behind their defence twice and forced a save out of Westwood when he could’ve cut the ball back, but an average cameo for Barky.
Only came on for 10 minutes to try and see the game out with a bit of level-headedness, but he gave away 2 fouls in dangerous areas and never had the chance to control possession. Difficult to impact the game in that short amount of time and he’ll definitely play better during the season.