The evidence of the season so far is that this is not the hardest of times to win a penalty, but few sides will win one as early as the one that gave Preston's revival such unstoppable momentum last night.
The game was just 32 seconds old when the Preston captain, Mark Rankine, cut into the area in pursuit of Rob Edwards' pass. He was challenged by Craig Fleming and picked himself up to see the referee, George Cain, pointing to the spot. Graham Alexander duly dispatched the kick past Robert Green's right hand and Preston were on their way.
Nobody's personal contribution epitomised their transformation better than Jon Macken's. He has had a mixed reception at Deepdale since insisting on going on the transfer list, but he was a hero again last night, with his first two League goals of the season, both hammered home in a style that could only impress any prospective buyer.
His first came after 13 minutes, when David Healy won the ball from the hapless Fleming and Macken pounced to find the top corner of the net. Norwich, who could have gone top of the First Division in the unlikely event of a 6-0 victory, were looking at the distinct possibility of a reverse of equal proportions.
The Norwich defence opened up again just after the half-hour, when Healy retrieved Alexander's over-hit corner and steered it back into the middle for Edwards, whose winner at Birmingham on Saturday signalled that Preston were beginning to turn their season around, to head home his second goal in four days.
City then survived precariously until time added on at the end of the first half, when an exchange of passes with Healy gave Macken the chance to drive his second into the roof of the net, perhaps aided by a slight deflection. Healy, like Macken a former Manchester United reserve, deserved a goal of his own and twice went close in the second half. In general, though, Preston could not recapture the pace and panache of their first 45 minutes and Norwich, slightly perked up by the introduction of Alex Notman, even managed a couple of shots on target.
"We got off to a bad start with that penalty decision," said the Norwich manager, Nigel Worthington. "We were all disappointed with that but you have to deal with it and we didn't deal with it."
Preston's manager David Moyes admitted: "We needed a little bit of luck, but I can't hide my delight at how well we played tonight."
Preston North End (4-4-2): Moilanen, Alexander, Jackson, Lucketti, Edwards, Cartwright, McKenna, Rankine, Anderson (Barry-Murphy, 72), Healy (Cresswell, 77), Macken. Substitutes not used: Lucas (gk), McKinlay, Kidd.
Norwich City (4-4-2): Green, Kenton, Fleming, McGovern, Drury, Nedergaard, Holt, Russell (Easton, 67), McVeigh, Roberts (Rivers, 72), Libbra (Notman, 51). Substitutes not used: Crichton (gk), Sutch.
Referee: G Cain (Bootle).Reuse content