Gillingham 0 - 1 Preston NE
Tuesday 21st October 2014 - 19:45 (League One)
A night of joy for the 216 North End fans who were present in the Priestfield Stadium to witness the fifth consecutive league win and the sixth win on the bounce in all competitive games. An even first half saw both sides have several chances but it was always Preston who were playing the more attractive football against the home side. Credit to the Gills, though, who at least tried to get the ball down and play on a rather windy night in Kent. The key moment of the game came on the hour when Paul Huntington, a late replacement for the ill Tom Clarke, nodded the ball into the back of the net right in front of the home end and the very well deserved points were making their way back all of the 267 miles to Deepdale. North End then dominated the second period and hit the woodwork three times before comfortably seeing out the game.
The game started brightly with both team trying to play football but it was Jamie Jones who was the first to show his mettle with a point blank stop early in the game. I thought this was Jones's best game yet for North End as he looked commanding, decisive and assured in the North End goal. Both teams had a couple of half chances before a curler from the Gillingham left saw Jones beaten but the ball bounce off the bar. North End certainly weren't being outplayed but were struggling to get that final shot in until a Garner header hit the bar with the home keeper beaten. Gallagher had a shot just before the break but the teams went in even even though the home side had the advantage of a quite strong wind behind them for most of the first half.
After the break, and with the wind behind them, it was the visitors who started to take control and I have to say that North End's passing on the night was some of the best we have seen this season. Gallagher had a shot saved and even Kilkenny got into the action with a shot twice charged down by the home defence. Another very positive point for us was the performance of Browne and Kilkenny in the holding roles and it is clear the the young pretender is learning much from the master in the art playing the deep lying creative role, or the defensive midfielder as most people call it. With 60 minutes on the clock Humphrey took a corner from the right and Huntington leapt high into the air and nodded the ball back in the direction it had come from and into the net. It was to prove the decisive moment even though we hit the woodwork three more times in the second period and Robinson had a goal bound effort amazingly cleared off the line. Four minutes of added time posed no threat and we saw it out comfortably to move into third place in the section with two games in hand.
Fifteen league points from fifteen for North End and a points per game ratio now higher than two. No game in this division is easy and such was the case in Kent but the attitude and professionalism of Simon Grayson's squad shone to secure the type of win away from home that promotion campaigns are renowned for. Many good individual performances on a night when it was genuinely difficult to pick a North End man of the match. My vote, though, goes to Jack King who I thought was outstanding on the night clearing up every scrap that Gillingham threw at us and further underlining why he is the clubs number one utility player. A long way to go on a Tuesday evening in a hurricane but boy was it worth it.