Preston boss Alex Neil hailed hailed Paul Gallagher’s contribution to the side after the Scotsman played a part in all three North End goals during their 3-1 win over Millwall at The Den.
The 34-year-old is a key component of a side that are now eight games unbeaten and could yet mount a late push for a play-off spot, having found themselves rooted to the bottom of the league at the beginning of October.
If there was any danger of complacency against the Lions, it did not show and a three-goal 27-minute blitz put the game to bed, with Gallagher at the heart of it, teeing up Andrew Hughes, Tom Clarke and Sean Maguire as the Lilywhites ran riot.
“He has an absolute wand of a right foot. He’s got the best trait you can have as a player – he affects games and he affects them regularly for us,” Neil said.
“His pass to Sean was absolutely sublime. He takes the pace off the ball and just stuns it into his path. He’s been absolutely terrific for us.”
The Lancashire outfit have now won their last six games against London opposition and put QPR to the sword at Loftus Road last month. They were similarly clinical today, but Neil felt the scoreline could have been even more emphatic.
“The first half was one of our best performances this season. I thought we took Millwall apart first half. We could have scored more than three,” he said.
“We knew when to pass it and when to turn it. I thought second half we just turned it far too often, which is disappointing, but if you’d offered me 3-1 before the game, I’d certainly have taken it because this is a difficult venue.”
The one downside was influential holding midfielder Ben Pearson’s booking for kicking the ball away. The caution means he has now racked up 10 for the season and misses the next two matches. The former Norwich manager thought the award was harsh.
“What it does do is give someone an opportunity to come in and take that position and make it their own. He’ll be sorely missed. I thought there were about four challenges on him today, which if he does on anyone else, is without doubt a yellow, potentially even a red,” Neil said.
Opposite number Neil Harris was understandably downcast after a desperately poor first 45 minutes and was particularly annoyed with Clarke’s header to double the visitors’ advantage.
“The second goal was embarrassing. The players didn’t do what they were supposed to. We were lacklustre first half, didn’t get out the traps,” he said.
“The players got a reminder at half-time about what it means to play for this club. You can’t give teams three-goal headstarts in this division. I’ll praise them for the second half, but not the first. We were terrible. Preston were good today, but it was more that we were really poor. We let ourselves down.”
The Lions now find themselves just four points above the drop zone and face Hull next on Tuesday night.
“Hull’s the third game in six days, so I’ll have to think not just about the physical aspect of it, but the disappointing performances of some of the players,” Harris admitted.
“I’ll certainly take my time in considering my starting 11.”
Stay updated with the latest news, gossip and football stories by following us @Football_P