Preston NE 5 - 1 Crewe
Saturday 14th March 2015 - 15:00 (League One)
It actually finished five, should have been eight and could easily have been ten, such was the one sided chance count on a Deepdale afternoon when North End gave their fans plenty to cheer about. There was a spell in the game, though, when Crewe were on the brink of levelling things only to have an equalising goal chalked off which would have made the score 2-2. In the last 20 minutes North End made the scoreline reflect the game with Joe Garner scoring four in total and being the first player since Alex Bruce 37 years ago to achieve that feat. The loose 4-4-2 formation paid dividends with Beckford missing one or two chances but having said that I thought Beckford complimented Garner well up front and certainly deserved his goal immediately prior to his late substitution. The fire power was evident and when the five forward looking players reads Garner, Beckford, Gallagher, Robinson and Johnson, well you would like to think you are in for an interesting afternoon.
Indeed the all star line up delivered early on in the game with North End having three clear cut chances before Garner got his first on 11 minutes with a shot past Rachubka. Little did the former Blackpool keeper know that he would be finishing the afternoon with a aching back due to the number of times he was to pick the ball out of the net. The midfield play was mainly free flowing with John Welsh again battling hard and winning the ball in the holding position. It wasn't long before Garner had made it two for him and two for the team as Gally put a superb ball over from the left and the North End Talisman rose very well to head in number two at the back post. Robinson and Beckford had further chances to extend our lead but Crewe, somehow, got back in the game when Turton met a ball headed back to the edge of the box and beat the despairing dive of Johnstone to make the score 2-1. It did take a bit of the gloss off an excellent first half but as the players went in at the break you just fancied that there would be more to come from North End in the second half.
The Railwaymen had their best spell of the game in the 20 minutes after half time but even then Beckford had two more excellent chances to extend our lead with one being hooked off the line. The crowd held its breath when the visitors had the ball in the net on 56 minutes via Haber but Mr Kavanagh blew for a foul and North End maintained their lead. From then on we moved up a gear and when Crewe took off Tate after 65 minutes there seemed to be more space in midfield as we moved into overdrive. Garner completed his hat-trick with the most sublime curling shot and when Garner made it four for him and four for the team, tapping in after Beckford had hit the post, we knew it was game over. Three minutes later it was five when Beckford rounded the keeper and finally got his well deserved goal and North End were on the march to the seventh win in eight league games.
All in all a very good afternoon for Simon Graysons men in front of an appreciative crowd of 10,203. North Ends play was generally slicker than of late and whilst far from perfect it was showing signs of a real understanding, particularly going forward, between the quality players that we undoubtedly have in the squad. I thought, once again, there were several man of the match contenders but, of course, the accolades must go to Joe Garner who has now scored 19 league goals and missed almost three months of the season. No time to stand and admire, though, because Peterborough are here on Tuesday evening and that will not be easy. However on the form we are showing offensively it would be a brave man that backs against North End the way the team are playing at the moment.