Leyton Orient 0 - 1 Preston NE
Saturday 16th November 2013 - 15:00 (League One)
When the going gets tough the tough get going and Preston certainly got going on Saturday afternoon with a magnificent performance at the home of the league leaders. I will pause there for a moment because Saturday, for me, was just as much about what happened off the pitch as what happened on it. I've been watching North End in the capital for over forty years but even I had a lump in my throat at the level of support given to the boys from the 1,200 travellers who were quite simply outstanding. Alan Ball Senior would have called them Gentry and I can hardly tell you how proud it felt to represent this club in the East End on Saturday. They were the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth man on a day when the North clearly outshone the South both on and off the field. It was a performance on the field full of pride, passion and commitment and a goal good enough to win any game at any level anywhere in the world. Joe Garner take a bow son.
North End came out looking like they meant business, fired up and growling like rabid dogs at the opposition every time they had the ball. Surprise inclusion, Jack King, had a huge game in the centre of the back three and in the first period we restricted the O's to one shot on the stroke of half time such was our dominance. In the centre of the field Gally was linking the play up well with the Tigerish Keane and Welsh battling for everything and winning most things in the North End engine room. The goal came as Orient had just started to gain some momentum and when Humphrey's cross came back to Keane he whipped in a cross from the right which Garner converted a la Robin Van Persie. It was a tremendous strike and the non-stop singing was punctuated with a roar that must have been heard a mile away. Grown men and women singing and dancing and hugging in the aisles - I've never seen anything like it for years watching North End.
In the second period we started, once again, on the front foot with some excellent football and closing down of the opposition. On the hour mark it could have been two when Garner was clean through in the inside-right position and just as he was about to shoot Cuthbert came from nowhere with a world class tackle to spare Orient's blushes. At the other end Bailey Wright did almost exactly the same when denying Mooney when he looked more likely to score. The home side were having more of the ball but not doing a lot with it and as the clock ticked round they became more and more frantic. Right at the end of the additional four minutes, Simpson was clean through and as the North End fans held their breath the ever dependable Declan Rudd spread himself well to save, and the points were heading back down the Central and Northern Lines to Euston Station.
A truly wonderful day out in the capital then for an ever improving North End and for the supporters who sung from five to three until five to five absolutely non-stop. There were many candidates for the man of the match all over the park but I thought that Jack King was immense in the centre of the back three for North End and to put on a show like that after just coming back from injury was a measure of this under-rated ex-builder who Simon Grayson clearly sees as part of the future at Preston North End. A day for the team but more importantly a day for the fans and an atmosphere in the away section which would have graced any ground in the country. The team's performance was excellent - the fans' performance was World Class - We are the Gentry.