Goals from Ben Davies, Paul Gallagher and Sean Maguire gave the Lilywhites a thrilling home win against league leaders Norwich City at Deepdale.
Davies headed home Gallagher’s free kick just 90 seconds in and Gallagher fired home from the spot after Darnell Fisher had been upended, before Declan Rudd saved Marco Stiepermann’s penalty all before half-time.
Maguire made it three, slamming home after a stunning Alan Browne effort had come off the bar with 20 minutes for go, the visitors grabbing an injury-time consolation through top scorer Teemu Pukki.
The opener only less than two minutes. Fisher was found on the right touchline about 40 yards from the goal and Gallagher whipped a brilliant ball into the box, that Davies rose highest to powerfully head down to the bottom left corner, giving Krul no chance between the sticks for the Canaries.
The visitors were a threat, however, and former Canary Rudd made a superb save with his legs in the ninth minute to deny Norwich star man Pukki, who had burst in behind Davies on Tom Trybull’s clever through ball.
On 19 minutes a second was inches away, as a stunning break from the Lilywhites saw Tom Barkhuizen race away from Jamal Lewis down the left, running 50 yards, before reversing the ball back to Brad Potts 25 yards out. The No.44 hit a vicious dipping, curling effort that beat Krul, but crashed back off the cross bar and was put behind for a corner.
And on 24 minutes another chance was given to double the advantage, this time from the penalty spot. The ball was well-worked down the right-hand side, with Barkhuizen lifting the ball into the box for Fisher, only for Onel Hernandez to haul him down; Geoff Eltringham, the match official, pointing straight to the spot.
Gallagher’s usual routine, with his back to goal, saw him turn and run at pace at the Bill Shankly Kop net, dispatching the ball into the same corner that Davies had found, despite Krul getting fingertips to it, making it 2-0.
But the visitors were awarded a penalty of their own on 32 minutes. Ben Pearson was harshly adjudged to have fouled Hernandez, clearly getting the ball, but Eltringham again pointed to the spot – although after a delay this time.
However, justice was to be done, as Rudd dived at full stretch to his right to make a brilliant save push the 12-yard effort from Stiepermann away and eventually the Lilywhites were able to clear the danger.
Christoph Zimmermann was lucky not to get a red card shortly after, as Potts seemed to have burst away and be running clean through; probably correctly – in the view of the referee – Jamal Lewis was covering round and thus it was only a yellow for the German centre half.
It was breathless stuff; both sides playing with a passion and an intensity that made it enthralling to watch, with everyone playing at the highest level.
Daniel Farke chose to make a change at the break, with former Blackburn Rovers striker Jordan Rhodes on for Trybull, with a clear change of formation for City as well, looking to add even more fire power to their frontline.
But it was North End who again almost started the second period like the first, Gallagher once again with a free kick from the touchline – this time on the left – and Maguire getting a flick header at the front post that flashed just past the back post.
Pukki, who went to 20 goals for the season the previous weekend, forced Rudd into a fine low save shortly after, as he raced onto Rhodes’ threaded through ball and fired hard and low with his right foot, but the PNE No.1 was up to the task and turned the ball behind for a corner in the 48th minute.
Godfrey also tested Rudd with a powerful header at the back post from Emiliano Buendi’s deep corner, as the visitors piled on the pressure on the North End goal in a near 20-minute spell where they seemed do press the Lilywhites back into their penalty area.
But it was North End who got the third goal of the game and what a goal. A throw in from Fisher down the right was played in for Browne, who turned inside and unleashed a volley with his left foot that beat Krul from 35 yards, but crashed back off the bar, only for his Irish international team-mate Maguire to collect the ball 15-yards out and smash a left-footed effort past the former Newcastle keeper into the Alan Kelly Town End goal.
The ball was in the Norwich net again moments later as Nmecha, on for Barkhuizen, appeared to have scored. Potts did superbly out on the left, delivered deep and the on-loan City man headed home, however, at deeper inspection and spotted by the referee, the striker had handled the cross as he put it in the goal and was cautioned for doing so.
It perhaps should have been four after a mesmerising run down the left from Nmecha, who turned Jamal Lewis inside out with some fantastically quick foot work, before looking up and see Potts, and pulling the ball back from the byline to the No.44, but his shot from ten yards out ended up in the side-netting.
In the four minutes of injury-time Pukki poked home to grab a goal back for the visitors and Max Aarons was lucky not to have been sent off for an appalling throw of his arms at Rudd after the goal – perhaps the only decision the referee got wrong all night, but it was mere consolation as North End ran out 3-1 winners.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Fisher, Hughes, Pearson, Storey, Davies, Potts, Gallagher (c) (Johnson, 62), Maguire (Stockley, 78), Browne, Barkhuizen (Nmecha, 67). Subs not used: Crowe, Earl, Clarke, Ledson.
Norwich City line-up: Krul, Godfrey, Zimmermann, Lewis, Buendia, Stiepermann (McLean, 73), Trybull (Rhodes, 46), Pukki, Hernandez (Passlack, 84), Tettey (c), Aarons. Subs not used: McGovern, Hanley, Srbeny, Cantwell.
Attendance: 11,280 (818 Norwich City fans)
Referee: Mr G Eltringham
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