A bullish Preston North End muzzled the Terriers in a frantic first half ensuring David Wagner did not get the Birthday present he wanted, as Town suffered their second successive defeat.
As the travelling fans were still taking their seats, Mark Hudson was adjudged to have fouled the dynamic Callum Robinson, if Town knew anything of their hosts, then it will have come as no surprise when Tom Clarke headed home from the resulting set-piece.
Must like the city itself, PNE are hardworking, physical and at times intimidating. Throughout the first-half Town were out-battled and undone by playing into the hands of Preston. In contrast, the hosts played to their strengths and stuck to a game plan, hitting the channels seeking the energetic Robinson or steely Hugill.
Perhaps the style of Preston is not one for the ‘footballing purists’, but for however rugged it may appear, it is effective.
The Lilywhites were well drilled and their tactics were all the more potent for it. PNE were quicker and sharper to pounce on the loose ball, too regularly the Terriers were caught on their heels and second to the ball during the opening exchanges.
Town steadily began to see more of the ball as the game developed and Payne, in an environment not suited to a man of his stature, would see his powerful shot deflected over. Unfortunately, this was as good as it got for the visitors in the first 45 minutes.
Preston would extend their lead before the break, having not heeded the earlier warning; Town would again concede from a set-piece, Gallagher’s delivery was this time met by Baptiste. Both goals could have and perhaps indeed, should have been avoided.
he Lilywhites, in spite of their game plan, do not necessarily boost the largest side but what they lack in height they more than make up for in sheer determination to win the ball, something evident in the opening two goals.
The introduction of Wells and Bunn during the break provided Town with a greater threat going forward in the second half. Town were now attacking the end packed with the relentless blue and white army and would come close after five minutes when Payne’s free-kick whistled over the bar.
Ultimately, what Town lacked at Deepdale and against Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday was positive decision making and quality in the final third, something which Preston North End showcased in abundance. Given half a yard Preston, mainly Gallagher, would have no hesitation in swinging in a vicious cross.
It would be the instrumental Gallagher who would seal the victory when his free-kick from the left would evade everyone and nestle into the far corner.
Frustratingly, it would be the third goal that shocked the Terriers into life. Jack Payne was almost rewarded for his efforts but saw his 56th minute shot parried away by Maxwell. Maxwell would quickly be called into action again by Bunn, Smith and Mooy, as all three came close but would find theirs hosts in a resolute mood.
Town were handed a very slim lifeline in the 81st minute when Palmer was fouled outside the box, the already departing fans quickly rushed back to their seats. The ball found its way Schindler at the back post who headed back across to Nahki Wells, a consolation goal that did not mask an inadequate performance.
Fitting perhaps then, that 3 out of the 4 goals were headers, in a game which David Wagner had said in his pre-match press conference; “the ball will probably be in the air more”.
A final word is reserved for Ex-Town Defender Tom Clarke. The boy who left Huddersfield in 2013 has become a man and a fine footballer too. Clarke was awarded M.o.M on the night and there were no complaints from the travelling fans.
It’s worth remembering “You can’t have the rainbow without the rain.”
Ooh to be a…