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Match Report: Preston North End 1-0 Hartlepool United (PNE Fan's Perspective)

Thursday 16th February 2012
They say the best things in life are worth waiting for and after what can only be described as a truly awful first half it seemed as if Preston fans would have to wait just a bit longer for a first win under Graham Westley.

The less said about the first half the better, a 25-yard shot from debutant full back Nicky Hunt that went several yards wide is the only chance that springs to mind from a Preston point of view. Hartlepool fired a couple of shots wide and Thorsten Stuckmann produced a good close range save after the Preston defence, not for the first time this season, was caught napping.

 

The second half was slightly more eventful, with the Preston players looking as if they'd been told one or two home truths during the half-time team talk and both teams had a couple of half chances.

But 14 minutes from time the game was decided by a stroke of genius. Preston substitute Danny Mayor, a lifelong North Ender and often one of the most frustrating players around, picked up the ball on the left wing and ran towards the visitors' penalty box. As the 'Pool defence backed off Mayor hit the ball from around 25-yards into the top right hand corner of the net, sending the majority of the 14,191 crowd into ecstasy.

In recent times Preston seem to be at their most vulnerable when defending a one goal lead. They nearly let the lead slip when a goalmouth scramble near the end saw Colin Nish, in an offside position somehow missed by the assistant, had his shot saved by Stuckmann, then saw a follow up attempt hit the crossbar and a third attempt go wide. But Preston for once managed to hang on and keep a clean sheet. Perhaps a fair result would have been a draw but alas football isn't gymnastics - you don't get points for style of play or attempts on goal, you only get them for wins and draws.

One final point to make about the actual game is the performance of Luke James, Hartlepool's 17-year-old forward who seemed to be involved with every attack and never stopping running or chasing the ball all night. Whether he is a star of the future or not only time will tell, but based on his performance he certainly looks like he could cope in the Championship.

 

Revolution not evolution is a phrase that has been used a lot by various sports presenters on BBC Radio Lancashire to describe Westley's reign at Preston North End. Four players made their Preston debuts in this game, while another four who have been brought in by Westley were involved. Perhaps Westley could be just the thing Preston North End need - he has to get rid of any dead wood from a squad of thirty odd players, some of whom are still on Championship salaries.

Ever since Billy Davies left PNE it seems that the club hasn't had a manager who can be strict with the players. It seems they've been soft and certain players have gotten to the stage where they think they're better than they really are. I, and I'm sure all Preston North End fans, hope Westley can change this and it seems he is gradually improving the players' attitudes, their fitness levels and most importantly their results.

Westley might not be everyone's cup of tea but there are 14,191 people who can say they were there when he won for the first time as Preston manager.

A final point to be made is that Jordan Grant, a 17-year-old PNE fan who was a member on this website, died recently. Before kick-off there were pictures of him on the video screen at the Kop End and applause from all sides of the ground, including the 150 or so Hartlepool fans who deserve great credit. Some of Jordan's favourite music was played and in the 17th minute the ground burst into applause in his memory. He was at Cardinal Newman college in Preston and had ambitions to be a sports journalist so it's perhaps only fair to dedicate the win in his memory.
Steven Nicholson

Total articles: 6

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