PNE 2 Aston Villa 0
North End went two up before the break; Ben Pearson scoring his first goal for the club five minutes in and then the midfielder disposed Villa to set up a chance that led to Jordan Hugill scoring for the third consecutive home game.
The visitors had a chance to pull one back in the final minute of added time when Jonathan Kodjia was upended in the box, but Chris Maxwell saved from Ross McCormack, to cap off an excellent afternoon and give the Lilywhites their first win over Villa since 1969.
The game was less than five minutes old when it burst to life. Callum Robinson won a 50-50 tackle on the edge of the Villa ‘D’ and Ben Pearson burst from the pack into the left hand side of the box and slid the ball under Mark Bunn – in for the injured Pierluigi Gollini in the Villa goal – to open the scoring.
Whilst the visitors had some pretty possession, Chris Maxwell was little more than a spectator, with all the chances falling the way of the Lilywhites.
Aiden McGeady created the next opening, getting down the right flank to the byline, before delivering a ball across to Robinson; his shot was blocked by James Chester for a corner. From the second corner McGeady’s cross to the back post was met by Baptiste, but he headed just wide of the left hand upright.
On the quarter out mark it was almost two. It took a brilliant save from Bunn to keep it at one, after McGeady’s cross caused havoc in the box; Hugill seeing his shot brilliantly saved by the keeper and then Robinson’s shot was blocked by Alan Hutton on the follow up.
On 25 minutes Pearson robbed Mile Jedinak of the ball in the middle of the Villa half and fed Robinson on the left, he drove inside and hit a dipping shot that flew over Bunn, but just over the right hand corner of the bar as well.
The chances continued as Hugill missed at the back post after Greg Cunningham recycled a corner from the left to deliver and find the No.25 unmarked, but trying to curl the ball into top corner and it went over the bar.
The second finally came on 39 minutes and it was all down to Pearson again. Stunning from the No.4 in the midfield as he hassled Ashley Westwood and eventually picked his pocket, drove into the box and then played a reverse the pass for former Villa man Daniel Johnson. His shot was well saved by Bunn, but only falling to Hugill, who slotted home left footed into the empty net from eight yards out.
As the visiting crowd got livelier, so did the game, three bookings for the Villains in the final two minutes of the half for Hutton, Adomah and Jedinak.
Roberto Di Matteo brought on Rudy Gestede and Ross McCormack for Jack Grealish and Westwood at the break, putting four forwards up to try and get back into the back and the former Blackburn striker Gestede headed over just four minutes in from a corner giving Simon Grayson’s men an early shot across the bows.
Just before the hour mark a really controversial moment as Alan Hutton seemd to get a clear arm on the ball in the box to take the ball away from Hugill after McGeady’s cross from the right, only for Peter Bankes to turn down the penalty claims.
Robinson then forced Bunn into another great save just moments later, collecting one-two from Johnson before firing left footed towards the top left corner of the goal and then from the corner Tom Clarke’s header was again acrobatically saved by the keeper.
Five minutes left on the clock and Callum Robinson saw a shot deflected wide by Hutton, which was heading towards the bottom right hand corner until the vital interception by the Scottish international right back, but
In the final 30 seconds of five minutes of added time the visitors were given something to cheer about when Kodjia was brought down in the box, but that didn’t last long as Chris Maxwell at full stretch palmed away Ross McCormack’s penalty and end the game on a high.
PNE line-up: Maxwell, Baptiste, Cunningham, Welsh, Clarke (c), Wright, McGeady (Huntington, 82), Pearson, Johnson, Hugill, Robinson. Subs not used: Lindegaard, Browne, Makienok, Gallagher, Doyle, Pringle.
Aston Villa line-up: Bunn, Elphick (c), Ayew, Chester, Westwood (Gestede, 46), Hutton, Jedinak, Kodjia, Cissokho, Adomah, Grealish (McCormack, 46). Subs not used: Steer, Baker, Richards, Tshibola, Amavi.
Attendance: 17,696 (5,421 Aston Villa fans)
Referee: Mr P Bankes