The Lilywhites made it three wins on the bounce as they maintained their position in the automatic promotion places with a convincing win over Danny Cowley’s Huddersfield Town at Deepdale.
Jayden Stockley and Alan Browne both grabbed their first goals of the season and Paul Gallagher added a third from the penalty spot, as Alex Neil’s side ran out 3-1 victors, with Juninho Bacuna getting the Terriers consolation 15 minutes before the end.
Without Daniel Johnson and Ben Pearson, the North End boss brought in Ryan Ledson and Gallagher, who had replaced Johnson and scored the winner at The Valley the previous Sunday and it was the PNE No.12 who again provided the chance to open the scoring.
Stockley had been brought down by visiting skipper Christopher Schindler 20 yards from goal and his opposing captain curled a beautiful free kick around the wall and off the right-hand post, the ball popping up perfectly for Stockley to react first and head back into the empty net for a fourth minute lead.
It was all the home side, with very little threat at all from the Yorkshire outfit and before the 15 minute mark it could easily have been two as Tom Barkhuizen broke with pace right at the heart of the Town defence before pulling the ball left for Stockley, but his hooked half-volley flashed just wide of Kamil Grabara’s right-hand post.
But the in-form winger did create the second. The ball was worked from left to right, with Ledson finding the No.29, who cross was deep from the right to the back post. Stockley was flattened by Terrence Kongolo, with referee Geoff Eltringham highly-likely to have pointed to the spot, had Browne not slammed the ball on the volley off Grabara and into the back of the net to double his side’s advantage on 33 minutes.
However, the match official had no choice but to point to the spot at the start of the second half as, yet again, Barkhuizen brought about a penalty, his right-wing cross clearly handled by Kongolo.
Gallagher, like six days previously against Charlton Athletic, stepped up – in front of the Alan Kelly Town End – and fired his penalty with pace and accuracy, right down the middle into the roof of the net, to make it 3-0 on six minutes inside the latter period.
Some of the football was now breath-taking and on 70 minutes, if the ball had ended up in the goal, it would have been talked about for a long time. Some great passing saw Maguire, Browne and Barkhuizen involved, the latter crossing for Stockley, whose header was blocked by Schindler for a corner. From that cross in, the ball was again worked beautifully, with the No.29 again delivering, this time finding Patrick Bauer, whose acrobatic volley was inches wide of the right-hand post.
Huddersfield grabbed a consolation on 74 minutes when Bacuna raced through from half-way, through the centre of the pitch, his low shot from the edge of the penalty area taking a slight deflecting, which squeezed it into the bottom right-hand corner.
This could have caused panic, however, North End continued to control the majority of the play, with Declan Rudd not needed to make any important saves in the closing minutes, with the defence in front of him holding firm and seeing the game out to keep the Terriers’ 50 year wait for a win at Deepdale going and to keep the Lilywhites on the heels of West Bromwich Albion at the top of the EFL Championship.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Fisher, Rafferty, Ledson, Bauer, Davies, Barkhuizen, Gallagher (c) (Potts, 72), Stockley (Nugent, 76), Browne, Maguire. Subs not used: Ripley, Bayliss, Storey, Ginnelly, Bodin.
Huddersfield Town line-up: Grabara, Elphick (Stankovic, 22), Kongolo, Bacuna, Chalobah, Kachunga, Diakhaby (Mounie, 59), Grant, Simpson (Pritchard, 65), Schindler (c), O’Brien. Subs not used: Schofield, Koroma, Hadergjonaj, Harratt.
Attendance: 16,038 (3,213 Huddersfield Town fans)
Referee: Mr G Eltringham