Funny old game, football; a lackluster display against Hartlepool United in midweek saw North End record their first win under new boss Graham Westley, before an improved performance resulted in defeat at Bramall Lane.
Danny Mayor’s wondergoal was enough to give PNE all three points at Deepdale on Tuesday night, as a crowd of over 14,000 saw Preston triumph 1-0 over Neale Cooper’s Hartlepool side. Westley, though pleased with the home win, described the performance as ‘disappointing’, and with good reason; besides Mayor’s goal, the Lilywhites managed only one shot on target during the 90 minutes.
Preston exhibited an improved attacking display against high-fliers Sheffield United on Saturday, but left Bramall Lane empty handed. Graham Cummins grabbed his first goal for North End since joining from Cork City, but Ched Evans’ brace gave United the win. Despite the result, Westley praised the team’s attitude and commitment.
North End sit 13th in npower League One.
Tuesday, 14th February
Preston North End 1-0 Hartlepool United
Full Match Report | Highlights
Love is in the air, but you’d never have guessed it; North End recorded their second highest home gate of the season on this Valentine’s Day clash against Heart…er, sorry, Hartlepool United. A crowd of over 14,000 chose a pie and peas over passion and presents and were rewarded with one of the strikes of the season from young Danny Mayor.
With fifteen minutes left on the clock, the game looked to be heading towards a 0-0 bore draw, until the local lad provided a moment of magic to break the deadlock. Mayor hadn’t really threatened after coming on as a substitute, but after swapping wings with Paul Parry, he received the ball on the left flank, cut inside onto his stronger right foot, and, given time, found 15 yards of space and a sight of goal before hitting a stunning drive into the top corner of Scott Flinders’ net– a real Goal of the Season contender.
Over the course of a somewhat lackluster encounter, Hartlepool always looked the more likely to score, but the ever-impressive Thorsten Stuckmann and a committed defensive display ensured North End kept their seventh clean sheet of the season.
Saturday, 18th February
Sheffield United 2-1 Preston North End
Full Match Report | Highlights
Westley made just one change to the team that celebrated a midweek victory over Hartlepool United, with debutant Aaron Brown replacing the injured Jamie McAllister. This was a more organised and positive display from North End, but the Lilywhites had little to show for it after 90 minutes. A penalty save from Thorsten Stuckmann and a valiant defensive display wasn’t enough to negate the influence of £3 million striker Ched Evans.
His timely brace saw Sheffield United come from behind to win the game, climbing above their steel city rivals and into 2nd place. North End took the lead through Graham Cummins shortly after Stuckmann’s penalty save, but the Welsh striker restored parity just before the break and grabbed the winning goal 10 minutes from time.
The Preston team left the field deflated, but boss Graham Westley found much to be positive about:
“The players are showing on all levels that they’re going in the right direction. Their attitude, their commitment and their will to go and win the game was there for all to see. We’ve made mistakes, but I think the fans’ applause at the end probably says it all – they saw a side out there with a will to win.”