Best mates Ryan Lowe and Steven Schumacher traded plenty of ideas when they shared the same dug-out. In opposite ones for the first time, their teams produced a richly absorbing contest.
It was Lowe’s Preston North End who came out on top, continuing their fine start to the season as they returned to the Championship summit with victory over their manager’s former employers.
But Schumacher’s Plymouth Argyle played their full part, had more possession and chances, and gave Preston plenty of scares. On another afternoon, they might easily have emerged with a point.
In this old pals’ act, neither man was left in any way humbled even if Lowe may eventually claim some bragging rights.
‘He’ll be disappointed but I’ll pick him up and have a drink with him,’ Lowe said of Schumacher, his former assistant.
Liam Millar celebrates doubling Preston’s lead over Plymouth Argyle at Deepdale with his goal
Duane Holmes (L) opened the scoring within the first minute of the match for the Lilywhites
‘Both of us said we wanted to beat each other and 90 minutes of football was never going to get in the way of our friendship and it never will.’
Preston: (3-4-2-1) Woodman, Storey, Lindsay, Hughes, Potts, McCann, Ledson, Millar, Holmes, Browne, Osmajic
Subs: Frokjaer-Jensen (46), Cunningham, Whiteman (60), Brady (75), Stewart, Woodburn, Cornell, Whatmough (63), Best
Goalscorers: Holmes (1), Millar (25)
Plymouth: (4-3-3) Hazard, Kesler-Hayden, Pleguezelo, Gibson, Miller, Cundle, Houghton, Azaz, Whittaker, Hardie, Mumba
Subs: Scarr (85), Butcher, Edwards, Wright (68), Warrington, Wright (85), Randell (73), Waine (85), Burton
Goalscorers: Hardie (61)
Preston’s North American connection did the business. American Duane Holmes headed them into the lead after a mere 37 seconds and when Canadian Liam Millar made it two, Plymouth might have crumbled.
But they already look right at home in the second-tier following promotion and continued to battle, halving the deficit through Ryan Hardie’s fifth goal of the season.
They couldn’t quite force an equaliser, though, and so Preston recorded a fifth win from their opening six to reiterate their potential to be promotion contenders this season. Indeed, it is their best second-tier start since 1928.
‘It could have been 4-4, 5-5, there were that many chances,’ added Lowe. ‘The game was fantastic, an entertaining one for the Championship and you just have to find a way to win.
‘We had two teams wanting to do the right things and win a game of football. I am just pleased we won it.’
Knowing any win would lift them back above Leicester to the top, Preston struck inside the first minute.
Millar weaved his way into space on the left and sent in a cross that Plymouth keeper Conor Hazard could only palm out. It sat up very nicely for Holmes to nod home his third of the season from just a few yards out.
Preston’s Jordan Storey battles for the ball in Championship clash against Plymouth Argyle
They doubled their advantage through the outstanding Millar, who took a pass from fellow debutant, the Montenegrin striker Milutin Osmajic, charged into the box, stepped inside a defender and side-footed home.
Plymouth had excellent opportunities to get back into contention, notably when Kane Kesler-Hayden was played through by Finn Azaz, only for Freddie Woodman to stand up and save well.
But they halved the deficit thanks to a slick move just after the hour, Hardie slipping his shot past Woodman after Luke Cundle’s cushioned pass.
Preston came out on top, continuing their fine start to the season as they returned to the Championship summit with victory over their manager’s former employers
Preston weathered late pressure but might have made it three – Osmajic was denied by a point-blank save and Brad Potts hit the post.
‘I am disappointed but proud, we were brave today after going a goal down so early and were more than a game for them,’ said Schumacher.
‘We did everything we could but it just wasn’t our day and sometimes that happens in football.’