Preston North End bounced back from their weekend defeat to Swansea City in perfect style on Wednesday night, beating Stoke City 3-1 at Deepdale to move tenth in the early Championship table.
Goals from Daniel Johnson and Billy Bodin gave Preston a comfortable 2-0 lead at half time, with Josh Harrop adding a third 20 minutes from time to secure all three points for the hosts, despite James McClean’s late consolation for Nathan Jones’ side.
It was a pretty impressive performance all round from Preston, and Alex Neil will be hoping there is plenty his side can take from that display going forward.
Here, we take a look at three things we learned about Preston from their victory on Wednesday night.
They look solid in defence
For all the pressure that Stoke put on them going forward last night, Preston very rarely looked like they were really in trouble at the back.
Throughout much of the game, the Potters were restricted to speculative efforts from distance and crosses into the box from wide areas, which the hosts were able to deal without too much in terms of fuss.
Patrick Bauer in particular looked a significant presence in the Preston backline, while even the forced withdrawal of captain Tom Clarke due to injury just minutes before half time didn’t seem to affect their focus at all.
It was an admirable performance at the back from Preston, and it was that solidity that seemed to lay the foundations to get Neil’s side back on track following their defeat on Saturday.
They can be ruthless when they need to be
Speaking in his post-match press conference, Alex Neil said that he thought his side were clinical in taking their win on Wednesday night, and you can certainly see what he meant.
There may have been errors from Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland to gift Preston their opening two goals, but the home side certainly had the confidence to put the pressure on a goalkeeper who has come under scrutiny in recent times.
It is also worth noting that the desire of Josh Harrop to get to the ball on the rebound for the third goal – having been the man to play the pass into the penalty area from deeper in the Stoke half – also demonstrates that killer instinct needed to win matches, considering several Stoke men had arguably been in better positions than Harrop to deal with the danger.
Home is where the heart is
It’s now two wins and two defeats from their opening four league games of the season for Preston, and interestingly, both of those wins have come at Deepdale, with the two defeats taking place on the road.
Alex Neil admitted that he had been keen to improve his side’s home form from last season – when they won just eight league games at home all season – a task which they have made a good start on.
With one of the early pacesetters in Sheffield Wednesday the next to make the trip to Deepdale on Saturday, those signs of promise are set to face their biggest test yet, in what could be an indicator of just how far Preston really can go this season.