Opinion

Does Preston North End’s 2-1 win over Wigan Athletic signal a new start or a false dawn?

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There was plenty of relieved heads on Saturday when the final whistle blew between Preston and Wigan.

North End had finally managed to banish their Deepdale demons. Despite falling a goal behind – and no doubt plenty of fans, myself included, fearing the worst – two second half strikes turned the fixture around. In the end, it was a Daniel Johnson penalty and a superb Tom Cannon effort that gave us the the three points.

It was much needed too. Having not won in their last four Championship games and with the side slipping down the division, three points was a must at the weekend. Throw in our awful home form – winning just four of 17 all campaign – and something needed to happen against the Latics.

Thankfully it did but could this be the real boost that we needed? Could this, and not the Luton result, be the real catalyst for better form at Deepdale and more wins or is this merely a false dawn and a flash in the pan?

There are some promising signs in truth. When you look at our last two games at home now, we now have four points out of a possible six. A 1-1 draw with Luton, on paper, is not a bad result. They could have had two or three goals on the night but the fact of the matter is that they didn’t and we were able to come away with a point despite being down to ten men. It means the players and the club itself may now begin to feel they aren’t going to just roll over at home from now on. In addition, bagging two goals is another positive. The last time we scored more than a goal at home in the Championship was back in November against Millwall and even that came in a defeat. To get back to finding the net frequently is a boost.

There are more general reasons for optimism away from the home win too. Tom Cannon was exceptional at the weekend and with the loanee finally bagging a goal, it could kickstart him to score even more. His all-round play has been good so far but with the lack of chances, he’s had a bit of a drought. You can’t blame him because you can’t score chances you don’t have but he’s proven now that he has the ability to potentially be the forward we need for the rest of the season.

Finally, Alan Browne was superb in a more attacking role at the weekend rather than his wing-back berth and created more chances than anyone else on the field. Daniel Johnson was also back to his best and was arguably the best player on the pitch. Those two hitting form and finding space in the team now could be key.

In hindsight though, it could be easy to see only the positives from the result. What is certainly true is that PNE were awful in that first half. It wasn’t a surprise to see us go behind – it was almost inevitable considering our torrid form – and considering the way we were labouring in that opening 45 minutes, it seemed like another bad day at the office. We were fortunate to get the penalty to help turn the game around and without that moment, we might have suffered yet another defeat.

No disrespect to Wigan either but to beat the team at the bottom of the league¬†should¬†be a given. The Latics obviously need points themselves and they’ve looked better under Shaun Maloney but considering their position in the division, it would been pretty much unacceptable to lose to them. In addition, fans are still not happy with boss Ryan Lowe. Regardless of wins, some fans have completely lost faith in the former Plymouth boss because of some of his pre and post match comments. Lowe could win them back around with the right comments and some good results but if supporters are still on his back, then the atmosphere around the club won’t be great.

There are some positive signs for definite then but whether this is truly a new start for the club or not might not be revealed until after this week. With a game against Coventry and then a fixture away at Watford, these next few days could be crucial in terms of seeing where we are now. Two wins and we could be playing some more confident football again and pushing into the very top half of the Championship table. Two more defeats and we will once more fall back towards the bottom half and the shouts for Lowe to go may grow louder. This could be a huge week for PNE.

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