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Preston North End 2 Saints 3
NOT just in football matches but in football seasons you often having turning points.
It’s only with the benefit of hindsight that you actually ever know when and where they have come, but at the time you get a sense you might be witnessing one.
In an individual game it can be a critical save at a certain point, the taking or missing of a chance or a substitution that swings the game a certain way.
Those kinds of moments can lead you to three points.
But, just very occasionally, they can signify more than that – they can prove to be a turning point for an entire season.
Saints may have had one of those moments at Preston.
An incredible fightback from Saints who showed plenty of belief – something that has been sorely lacking at times this season.This must not be an isolated result but the start of a revival – on such things can seasons turn.Adam Leitch
It was half-time and the team was trailing 2-0.
Sadly, it had been the story of the season so far – Saints hadn’t played badly nor particularly well.
Neither in fairness had their opposition, but the difference in the final third accounted for the difference in the scoreline.
And, if anything, Saints should have probably been further behind than they were.
At the break Jan Poortvliet made two changes.
Firstly he threw on Bradley Wright-Phillips, probably a fairly regulation thing to do when trailing away from home.
But also on was Oscar Gobern, a 17-year-old making his debut.
If you believe in fate then you could only conclude this could be a massive turning point.
Poortvliet’s decision to bring Gobern could have backfired as Saints may have totally folded.
As it turned out, it was inspired.
But it would never had happened had circumstances not conspired.
Gobern wasn’t even going to travel with the squad until Rudi Skacel felt his hamstring on Friday morning.
And he wouldn’t have even been on the bench had Jason Euell not got injured in the warm-up.
Fate? Time will tell, but there’s a pretty strong case for suggesting it just might have been.
Saints’ stirring second half comeback to win will be the stuff of legend for years to come.
But more importantly in the short term, it gives them a much needed boost.
Poortvliet hopes it will prove to the fans just what his young team can do.
They never compromised their style and maybe this swing in momentum, in confidence, will kickstart their season.
Even the most ardent of Saints fans would surely not have put a wager on them coming back to win at half-time.
Preston took the lead on 36 minutes when Jon Parkin and Stephen Elliot both had shots blocked on the edge of the area and the ball came out to Billy Jones.
He shifted it onto his left foot and found the bottom corner from 20 yards.
It got even worse six minutes later as Ross Wallace was allowed to drift in from the left ahead of Lloyd James and pick up a routine lobbed ball into the area.
His control wasn’t the best but the ball fell to Elliott and he lashed home to double the lead.
It could have been even worse at the break had Kelvin Davis not produced a good early save from Parkin and Sean St Ledger not twice headed off target when left unmarked from corners.
Though never playing that badly, the best Saints managed was a looping Ryan Smith header cleared by Youl Mawene and Jake Thomson’s non-existent finish after Andy Lonergan had spilt a routine cross.
Cometh half-time, cometh the changes.
You can’t say that Saints came out and suddenly tore Preston to shreds, because they didn’t.
Both sides played pretty much to the same level as in the first half but this time it was Saints and their new men who were more potent in the final third.
After Wallace had squandered a chance to seal the match for Preston, Saints started their fightback when on 64 minutes debutant Alex Pearce charged in to power home Andrew Surman’s corner.
Just four minutes later Saints were level.
Wright-Phillips lofted a ball to the far post where St Ledger made a poor misjudgment in heading it behind him.
Gobern fired in a volleyed cross which was met by a diving header from Surman.
Saints almost took the lead two minutes later as Wright-Phillips got through one-on-one but Lonergan saved at his feet.
Gobern decided to bring down the loose ball before shooting and his effort was deflected just wide.
A minute from the end, Gobern’s header from a short corner beat Andy Lonergan but not Jay McEveley who cleared off the line.
But Saints weren’t about to settle for a draw and grabbed a dramatic winner as David McGoldrick seized on a loose defensive header, sprinted past some sluggish Preston bodies into the area and calmly finished left footed low past Lonergan.
After scoring only once in 450 minutes – McGoldrick’s midweek effort against Coventry – Saints had plundered three in 26 ...