Deepdale played host to what turned out to be a fantastic game of football and Alex Neil’s men sent the home fans away dreaming of what might have been had we not been inundated with injuries.

Just over 11,200 fans were inside Deepdale, including 818 from Norwich, to witness the Canaries’ first away defeat since August 18th when they lost away at Bramall Lane, 2-1 to Sheffield United. Almost 6 months on from that game, Norwich arrived in Lancashire atop the Championship and flying on the back of a 3-0 victory over local rivals Ipswich. The problem for Norwich was that North End are currently in a rich vein of form and were unbeaten in 5 prior to the game.

We mentioned in our match preview about the way Norwich play and that a fluid, pacey front three or four could prove to fare well for Preston and come the end of the night, I think you could say that was certainly the case.

The Lilywhites flew out of the traps and for much of the first half looked like the team that was flying high in the league. Alex Neil couldn’t have wished for a better start either as his side were awarded a free kick out on the right-hand side and the effervescent Paul Gallagher played the ball into the box for Ben Davies to head the ball past Norwich stopper Tim Krul. Norwich weren’t without chances, though. Prolific forward Teemu Pukki went through one-on-one against Declan Rudd but the former Norwich player was equal to Pukki’s effort and the game remained 1-0.

We went on to create a number of decent chances, Brad Potts smashing the bar with a great first-time strike from about 20 or so yards out following a blistering run from Tom Barkhuizen being one of note. The pressure soon paid dividends for North End though as Darnell Fisher was fouled in the box by Emiliano Buendia and Paul Gallagher stepped up to stick the ball in the back of the net, just about squeezing the ball under Dutch ‘keeper Tim Krul.

But and there always seems to be a ‘but’ as a PNE fan, Ben Pearson was adjudged to have fouled Onel Hernandez in the box (I’m not convinced but then again, I am a Preston fan) and Norwich were awarded a penalty. Up stepped Marco Stiepermann to take the spot kick but Declan Rudd was equal to his effort and dived to his right to keep the penalty out with a great save.

Declan Rudd knee slide

A top drawer first-half performance from North End had the fans rocking inside Deepdale but the second half, inevitably, was quite different. Norwich came out playing some very nice stuff and for around the first 20 minutes or so of the second half, Declan Rudd was forced into a number of top drawer saves to keep the Canaries out. One of the few times we were able to get out of our own box we made the most of it.

Darnell Fisher launched a throw-in down the line to Alan Browne who, after some good control turned and volleyed the ball toward goal from fully 30 yards or so out but his glorious effort crashed off the bar and fell at the feet of Sean Maguire who leathered it into the top corner for 3. The ball was in the back of the net for the 4th time after what appeared to be a Lukas Nmecha header, but it was rightly ruled out for handball. North End then had another great opportunity for 4 after a mazy run and some neat footwork from Manchester City loanee Nmecha who then pulled the ball back for Brad Potts but he fired wide from a few yards out.

Norwich did get their goal in the end, something for their travelling fans to shout about at least. Teemu Pukki scored with a fine finish to find the far corner in the 2nd of 4 minutes added on but it was too little too late for Daniel Farke’s men.

Stand Out Performers

Without doubt, Declan Rudd was the stand out performer for North End on his 100th appearance for the club. He made 8 saves throughout the game, some vital, but none more vital than the penalty save in the first half.

He’s come in for some heavy criticism this season, and rightly so in my opinion, but since the departure of Chris Maxwell on loan to Charlton and the arrival of Connor Ripley from Middlesbrough, Declan’s performances have improved significantly. Pulling off a great save in the last minute or so against Bolton which ensured the 3 points came back to Deepdale and keeping Norwich out until the 92nd minute tonight, he was fully deserving of the man of the match award tonight and long may It continue.

Whilst Declan was undoubtedly the best player on the pitch, Preston North End’s entire squad can hold their heads up high. Every single one of the players on the pitch in white performed to the best of their ability, without doubt.

Tom Barkhuizen was tireless in his running and was unlucky not to have an assist against his name. Brad Potts was unlucky not to have a couple of goals and continued his run of good performances since joining in January. Alan Browne was inches away from adding to his collection of wonder goals and Sean Maguire bagged his first goal of the season but his overall performance easily merited the goal.

Player Ratings

Declan Rudd

Excellent from start to finish and saved the penalty to ensure a 2-0 lead going into the break for the lilywhites. Best game in a North End shirt in a long, long time.

Man of the Match

Rating – 9*

Darnell Fisher

Darnell was great again and another assured performance showed he is back to the player he was last season.

Rating – 7.5

Jordan Storey

Another outstanding performance from the former Grecian. I can’t write enough good words about Jordan Storey, he’s sublime.

Rating – 8

Ben Davies

Played well and scored his first goal in a long time. Had a few shaky moments but overall was solid enough.

Rating – 8.5

Andrew Hughes

Much like the game against Bolton, he was quietly good. Has improved a lot in recent times and long may it continue.

Rating – 7.5

Paul Gallagher

Same old Gally tonight. He’s like a fine wine and just seems to get better with age. Is a great leader for young lads we have on the pitch, too. Plus, he has continued his run of scoring from the spot with his odd run-up. I’m not complaining as long as they continue hitting the back of the net.

Rating – 8

Brad Potts

Unlucky not to have a couple more goals tonight after he smashed the bar from 20 or so yards out and fired wired after a fine run from Lukas Nmecha ended with Brad missing a very good opportunity. Overall, very, very impressed again.

Rating – 8

Ben Pearson

Gave away the penalty but other than that, was all over the place again. He’s a key cog to our midfield and his form of late has shown his importance to the team.

Rating – 8

Alan Browne

Could have easily had another cracker to add to his list of top notch goals but the cross bar put paid to that. As we’ve come to expect from Alan this season, he put in yet another excellent performance.

Rating – 8.5

Tom Barkhuizen

Pace. The one word that suits Tom to a tee. He showed his lightning quick pace again tonight and made some powerful, surging runs forward from deep.

Rating – 8

Sean Maguire

Was all over the place at the top of the pitch tonight. Fully deserved his goal and never gave the Norwich defence a moment’s peace. Added bonus for celebrating by pointing to his eyebrows after a picture of him did the rounds during the Derby County game comparing him to a Nintendo Wii character.

Rating – 8.5