Goals from Daniel Johnson, Billy Bodin and Josh Harrop – on his return to the side – were the scorers as Preston North End made it back to back home wins by beating Nathan Jones’ Stoke City 3-1 at Deepdale.
Johnson fired home in the seventh minute, before Bodin capitalised on a mistake by Stoke’s international goalkeeper and Harrop capped things off in the second half. James McLean fired home a minute from time for a consolation goal, but Alex Neil’s side thoroughly deserved the win and the points.
The scoring started early as a long ball from Declan Rudd sent over the top for Tom Barkhuizen, playing as a No.9, saw him get down the right and pull the ball back, it taking a deflection off Danny Batth, falling to Johnson, who fired a shot into the floor and into the bottom right-hand corner of England ’keeper Jack Butland’s goal.
And it was 2-0 on 25 minutes as Butland, who could be questioned over the first, was again left red-faced as another long ball for Barkhuizen was pushed out by the stopper, but only as far as Billy Bodin, who drove a shot back in that went right through the body of the Stoke No.1 and into the goal.
At times on the night the Lilywhites played some exquisite stuff and four minutes before the break Joe Rafferty, continuing to play left back in the absence of Andrew Hughes, almost got his second in as many games with what would have been a stunning team goal.
It started with Rafferty, who played in Daniel Johnson on the left, who twisted into space and found Billy Bodin. In turn the Welshman found the onward run of the left back, who got into the box on his favoured right foot, but his shot deflected into Butland’s grateful hands.
In the opening home game the manager had said that the first goal in the second half would be key and that was the same again in this match and once again that was PNE and it was a fairytale story as Harrop scored on his first start at Deepdale since September 2018.
It was brilliant play again as the No.10 found Johnson, who went down the right-hand side of the penalty area and then checked back, putting a defender on his back side, before curling a shot that Butland pushed out, but only as far as Harrop, who fired it back across goal into the bottom right hand corner with just over 20 minutes left.
James McLean, who could have seen red for an incident with substitute Darnell Fisher, fired home from close range at the back post with a minute left of normal time, but it proved nothing but mere consolation much to the delight of the home crowd.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Clarke (c) (Fisher, 40), Rafferty, Pearson, Bauer, Davies, Bodin (Potts, 59), Gallagher (Browne, 82), Barkhuizen, Johnson, Harrop. Subs not used: Ripley, Ledson, Green, Stockley.
Stoke City line-up: Butland, Edwards, Allen, Lindsay, Batth (c), Ince (Vokes, 70), McClean, Gregory, Hogan (Etebo, 58), Clucas, Woods (Collins, 46). Subs not used: Federici, Smith, Campbell, Duffy.
Attendance: 11,973 (1,302 Stoke City fans)
Referee: Mr J Brooks