Preston North End gave their promotion hopes a welcome boost on Saturday afternoon, as they beat Hull City 2-1 at Deepdale.
After Mallik Wilks had headed the visitors in front five minutes before half time, two goals in four second-half minutes turned the game in Preston’s favour.
First, Paul Gallagher levelled for Alex Neil’s side from the penalty spot after Darnell Fisher had been brought down in the Hull area, before Alan Browne headed home from Jayden Stockley’s cross to complete the turnaround, and ultimately secure all three points for the hosts.
Following that win, North End remain sixth in the Championship table, six points adrift of the top two, although they are now three points clear of seventh-placed Bristol City in the battle for a top-six spot.
Here, we take a look at three things we learnt about Preston from that victory over the Tigers.
Paul Gallagher has nerves of steel
When Darnell Fisher went down in the Hull area midway through the second half, Paul Gallagher was handed the perfect opportunity to pull Preston level, and he took it in eye-catching style.
After placing the ball down on the spot, Gallagher walked back to the edge of the area with his back to goal, before, without breaking stride, turning, taking his run-up and smashing the ball past George Long in the Hull goal.
Not only was it a somewhat spectacular approach for a penalty, but also a risky one, given the last time Gallagher had tried that buildup, he had needed the rebound to score in a 2-1 win over Luton in December after his initial effort had been saved.
The fact he was willing to try that again therefore shows the confidence Gallagher has in that approach, especially considering his side were a goal down in a game they will have been desperate to win in the race for a top-six spot, and while you can’t help but wonder what the response might’ve been had it gone wrong again, Gallagher clearly did not.
Can you name Preston’s top scorer from each of the last 15 seasons?
They showed their bottle
Having seen their play-off hopes dealt a blow with a far from convincing performance in a 1-0 defeat to Millwall last time out at Deepdale, Preston will have been under plenty of scrutiny heading into this one.
As a result, there may well have been some of a North End persuasion fearing the worst when Mallik Wilks had headed the visitors in front, given the pressure another defeat would have put on Preston in that final play-off spot.
In the end however, there would be nothing to worry about, with Preston showing plenty of fight to take the game back to their under pressure opponents, and turn it their favour to take all three points in the way that any side looking to back up their hopes of promotion to the Premier League would be expected to do in a fixture such as this, which should at least be encouraging going forward to those last few games of the season.
Alex Neil’s willingness to change pays off
Throughout the course of this season, Preston manager Alex Neil has insisted that he is not afraid to make changes to his selections and formations as games go on, and that certainly worked out well for North End on Saturday.
With Hull a goal up and little more than half an hour remaining, Neil sent for the cavalry from the bench in the form of Jayden Stockley and Alan Browne, a decision that would prove to be a match-winning one, albeit in an unlikely way.
Barely a quarter of an hour after they had been introduced to the game, Stockley – more typically a bustling, physical centre forward – sent in a dangerous cross that would expertly by headed home for Preston’s second by Browne – who you would usually expect to be the one pulling the strings in the midfield for the Lilywhites.
That the combination worked that way around will of course be of little concern for Neil, and could even add an extra option to turn to when it comes to making these sort of alterations in the future, something which once again looks as though it could prove crucial between now and the end of the season.