A win, putting our chances away, attractive football and distancing ourselves from the bottom pack. Are we dreaming? Or is this a reality?
North End did everything but score on Wednesday night against QPR, positive signs all around but you don’t win games if you don’t score goals. I’m sounding a bit like Michael Owen here, but it’s true. PNE had gone three games without a goal, with their last goals coming during the victory at Ewood Park early in February.
North End were stumped for goals prior to Saturday, doing everything right in the lead-up but failing to find the back of the net, as Jake talked about in his Monday piece for LancsLive. So it was nice to see that against Huddersfield we were able to put away the chances we had, that clinical touch is just what we needed.
However, things could have changed completely. Early on in the box, a through ball into PNE’s box saw Andrew Hughes go to ground with his man and looking back, I think it’s a stonewall penalty. Referee James Linington didn’t seem to see anything in it though so it’s nice to see a penalty waved away in favour of us for a change.
Huddersfield looked the dominant side in the first half with Daniel Iversen yet again pulling out all the stops to deny the Terriers from going ahead. He produced a fine save tipping Mbenza’s powerful shot from the edge of the area and again, he got down well to deny the lively O’Brien from close range. The Danish keeper has more than impressed so far since arriving on loan from Premier League club Leicester City in the January window.
North End looked to have found a bit of luck for their first goal, probably the scrappiest goal I’ve seen for some time but in the current situation, you just don’t care how they go in as long as they do go in. It just had to be Brad Potts.
Personally, I haven’t been his biggest fan this season and I’m glad he’s proved me wrong on Saturday. A goal, just, capped by a fine display and he’s certainly made a few fans eat their words. It’s just a shame there were no fans in attendance on Saturday, I could imagine the celebrations would have been good.
The second half display was great viewing. The second goal was crucial for North End and ultimately, went on to ensure the three points stayed in Lancashire.
A fine pass by Browne picked out Brad Potts out wide who then cut one back into the box for Ched Evans to slot home. North End at this point looked like a side who had certainly started to gel. A fine finish by Ched certainly gave us some room to breathe and it’s worth noting that Brad Potts and Ched Evans look to have formed a great connection. That’s just what PNE have been missing as of late, link up play and putting away chances.
The third goal is probably the best goal I’ve seen in some time.
From a Jordan Storey clearance inside our own box to putting in the third goal of the game all inside ten seconds, North End looked ruthless. Three passes is all it took once the ball landed at the feet of Ched Evans.
A great outside of the boot pass from Evans into the path of Tom Barkhuizen and another outside of the boot cross from Barky to Scott Sinclair who was waiting to fire home a first time effort. That more than settled it and secured the three points for North End. Scott Sinclair could also be seen saying “that’s what I’m talking about” before embracing in celebration with Tom Barkhuizen and that really is what it’s all about and I’ve no doubt it will give Barky a lot of confidence.
You could sense a feeling of relief for the attacking unit. A frustrating few games and not scoring in 270 minutes worth of football, it’s hard not to be. Three goals without reply from the opposition is a good way to end a run like that.
After Wednesday night, it was there to see that if North End just tweaked a few things and got their shooting boots on, the goals would come. It looks like Alex Neil did just that.
Starting an unchanged team, Alex had faith and his selection paid off. You’d have expected one or two changes from Wednesday night with our upcoming schedule but it was nice to see Alex Neil stick with the same squad that didn’t play badly on Wednesday night, it was just the untaken chances that proved the difference in North End failing to pick up all three points and having to settle for just the one.
Hopefully, North End are in the same mood for Tuesday night’s trip down to the big smoke to face a Millwall side under Gary Rowett who have drawn sixteen times this season.
A win certainly wouldn’t go amiss on Tuesday night and would help claw us a bit further away from that bottom pack. The Lions have only won three games at home this season so the three points are certainly there for the taking but they lost for only the third time this calendar year on Saturday so it’s by no means going to be a walk in the park.
As expected, I would like to see Alex opt for an unchanged side again bar any little niggles picked up from Saturday. Hopefully the goals keep on coming.
It’s amazing how a football club can control your moods as well. A win, accompanied by some nice weather and with an end in sight as far as the pandemic goes, it certainly helps to put you in a good mood.
North End could move up into tenth in the league should all results go their way, and put us six points away from the playoff places. I’m not saying it’s a dead cert that North End can push for playoffs now because that win on Saturday was more of a relief that we are that little bit further from the bottom end of the table.
But, you just never know, as is the way in football.
Let’s hope we can kick on now and make it a positive end to the season. If we do, who knows where we could end up. Make sure you listen to the latest episode of the From the Finney podcast below.