Preston NE 1 - 0 Rochdale
Friday 3rd April 2015 - 15:00 (League One)
A simply priceless three points for North End in this Good Friday clash and although the game was far from a classic we just had enough quality on the field to keep our shape and score the goal that meant so much. Early on we were second best to a Dale side who had come intent on taking the game to North End but who's first half exertions took their toll after the break with North End clearly on top. The decisive strike came from Beckford who, I have to say, had one of his quieter games but his turn and spin after collecting the throw in was a moment of pure quality. North End struggled for a while playing a 4-1-3-2 formation often getting over run in midfield in the early part of the game but once the manager tightened the line up and slotted Beckford in on the right we looked much more solid and capable to at least hold on to what we had got.
The game started in front of a decent crowd of 12,288 with just over a thousand coming down the M61 to cheer their boys on. North End found it difficult to cope with the up and at em style of the visitors who were playing decent football and closing us down at every opportunity. The visitors had a couple of half chances early on but we had the best chance of the game when Garner put Robinson through only for the Villa loanee to shoot straight at the Rochdale man of the match. Lillis, in the visitors goal. North End started to exert some authority on proceedings and duly got their noses in front in the 36th minute. A throw in from Scott Laird on the left was controlled by Beckford who spun and shot in one movement and fired the ball into the far corner to give North End the lead. It was a great strike from Beckford and galvanised North End a little even though the visitors tried to strike back immediately with a shot from Bunney that hit the outside of the post, but it was Preston with the lead as the teams trooped off for a well earned half time cuppa.
Clearly the miles that Rochdale had put in during the first period had used quite a bit of fuel and it was the home side who controlled the game a little more after the break. A golden chance came Rochdale's way ten minutes in but Henderson headed over when he really should have done better. Humphrey replaced Beckford just after the hour mark and the right side looked a lot more secure defensively as well as giving us better options from an attacking perspective. Garner then had two chances to seal the game for North End with a header that went wide and a back post header that the impressive Lillis saved with his legs. Still North End could not find the winner and when a Laird thunderbolt was superbly saved again by Lillis we looked resigned to holding on to the one goal, which we duly did.
A huge cheer and a sigh of relief greeted the final whistle to end what had been a tense game containing a lot more effort and endeavour than skill but with Jermaine Beckford showing the type of quality finish that may well be enough to get North End over the line. I don't think the manager or any of the players would claim that this was one of our best performances of the season but we worked really hard to keep our shape on a day when the flair players were somewhat restricted by the fact that we probably had more work to do in midfield and at the back than we anticipated. Rochdale are no mugs and will give other teams problems before the season is through but the game was all about the result and we delivered so the Super-white army can now gear up for an invasion of Bradford on Monday afternoon to try and make another huge stride towards the Championship.