The pressure on Preston North End manager Alex was eased last night, as his side put in an excellent performance to beat highflying Bournemouth 3-2.
Coming off the back of two heavy defeats, confidence was low for North End who made three changes from the defeat to Watford last Saturday. Alan Browne and Ryan Ledson returned in a new look midfield, with Joe Rafferty back in at left back.
The Cherries who were held by a resilient Rotherham at the weekend, also made three changes, including the addition of exciting Spanish winger Riquelme.
Bournemouth’s side, much like Watford, was full of quality, with Welsh international David Brooks particularly showing his talent in the previous weeks. This was going to be as equally tough for Preston.
The opening exchanges were even, with both sides looking to get the ball into the wide areas. The first chance fell to Bournemouth when Stanislas, working down the left, found Lerma who blazed over from 20 yards out.
Bournemouth continued to press and could’ve had a penalty when Adam Smith tangled with Alan Browne, but the ball slithered out and a goal kick was given.
The hosts were left stunned soon after when good defending from the Lilywhites allowed Johnson to break down the left and whip a perfect cross to Tom Barkhuizen who tapped home.
This sweeping move showed North End’s attacking ability, we just haven’t enough of it this season, but crucially they had the lead.
In response, Brooks showed good footwork off the right but his shot was comfortable for Declan Rudd. Preston could have doubled their advantage when good link up play allowed Maguire to strike a fierce shot but it was well saved.
Bournemouth looked puzzled after half an hour, Preston seemed comfortable in possession and were quick to win the ball from the hosts.
Riquelme, for all his fancy feet, was struggling to create chances, often relying on fellow Spaniard Diego Rico on the over lap to get the ball in the box.
The only other chances of note for the Cherries was another cut inside from Brooks and a header from Dominic Solanke from a corner that blazed over. Preston led at the break.
Bournemouth started the second half brightly. The introduction of youngster Sam Surridge almost payed off but his knocked down header was snatched at by Solanke.
From the clearance, Maguire flicked the ball onto Sinclair who found himself one-on-one with Chris Mepham but noticing keeper Asmir Begovic off his line and he lobbed the Bosnian from 35 yards out.
Bournemouth were stunned again and were struggling to create chances in response. Chances from Adam Smith and Dominic Solanke both went begging.
They was punished again when the ball was worked to Johnson on the right, he crossed and German centre half Patrick Bauer dived in to finish at close range.
The hosts found a lifeline when Stanislas fired in an excellent free kick from 25 yards out. Jason Tindall’s side were back in the game. A triple sub followed, including the introduction of young winger Jaidon Anthony.
The change paid off ten minutes later when Anthony broke into the box, lofting the ball to Surridge who headed home from six yards out. Preston’s defensive issues were starting to show and the extra five minutes was going to make for a nervy end.
But perhaps more worrying was when Bauer seemed to go down with cramp, the appearance of a stretcher suggesting it was far more serious. The resulting achilles injury could see the German miss several games.
This injury gave the Cherries time to get the ball in the box but a string of crosses were well dealt with and the Whites held out for a terrific victory.
The result leaves Bournemouth 2nd in the League, but Tindall will want answers as to how his defence was opened up so easily.
Preston however, they move up to 14th and the pressure on Alex Neil for now at least decreases. What was promising for North End fans was the slick attacking Football that has really been missing so far this season.
With the visit of new boys Wycombe on Saturday providing a new challenge, it will be interesting to see if Neil’s side can kick on from a very satisfying win.