Craig Salmon’s PNE Press View

Danny Graham scores at the THIRD attempt

Danny Graham scores at the THIRD attempt

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“...And it’s Danny Graham who has placed the ball on the spot,” said the match commentator perched up high in the Sir Tom Finney Stadium.

“He steps forward; oh it’s been saved by Maxwell and the rebound has been saved also.

“There’s an almighty scramble and it’s been eventually turned home at the third time of asking by Graham.”

Okay, that may not have been the exact transcript, but most North Enders will recognise the above description as the events surrounding Blackburn Rovers’ opening equaliser in the derby clash at Deepdale earlier this month.

It also perfectly describes, in my opinion, one of the great ‘injustices’ in football.

Why do penalty-takers get a second and, in this case, a third bite of the cherry after failing to make the most of their initial opportunity from 12 yards?

It always grates on me to watch a goalkeeper make a terrific save from the spot only to see the spot-kicker ‘redeem’ himself by tapping home into an empty net from six yards with the goalie still lying on the floor desperately trying to spring back to his feet.

Would it not be fairer, once a penalty has been saved by the keeper, if the kicker was not allowed to play the ball again until it has been touched by another member of his team.

That way, with the kicker out of the equation, the race to the rebound becomes a straight contest between the goalkeeper and the rest of the players who are all, of course, positioned outside the area until the spot-kick is taken.

On this occasion, Chris Maxwell – the PNE No.1 – saved Graham’s penalty and then, against all the odds, kept out the Rovers striker’s rebound effort.

Unfortunately for Maxwell, Graham was able to coolly and calmly smash the ball home at the third attempt, despite some desperate last-ditch PNE defending, most notably from Alex Baptiste. As the law stands, if a penalty rebounds off the woodwork the kicker may not play the ball a second time until it has been touched by another player.

Why not apply a similar principle for when the ball comes back off the keeper?

After all, if a player is not able to make the most of a free hit from 12 yards, do they deserve a second chance? Or third?

I am sure most PNE fans have not given the topic too much thought, especially as Graham’s ‘penalty’ conversion proved immaterial to what was an historic derby victory for the home side.

It had been 38 long years since North End had got the better of their local rivals on home turf and understandably the Deepdale faithful 
took great delight in the 3-2 success.

I suppose the derby result shows just how far Rovers have fallen since the heady days of the Jack Walker era of the 1990s. But it is also a measure of the upward curve PNE find themselves on after a horrible start to the season.

Since the win over Rovers, North End have picked up four points on their travels at Nottingham Forest (1-1) and Bristol City (2-1).

Confidence is high and with two home games against Leeds United, on Boxing Day, and Sheffield Wednesday, on New Year’s Eve, to come there is a chance to claw some more ground back on the leading pack over the festive period.

What could provide an interesting sideshow in the new year is the future of the club’s longest-serving player Bailey Wright.

The Australiainternational’s contract runs out in the summer and he has so far yet to commit to a new deal.

In interviews over the past few weeks, Wright has been non-commital about his future and it may well be that the club look to cash in on the defender next month rather than risk losing him for nothing under the Bosman ruling.

This week, manager Simon Grayson reiterated his desire to keep hold of the 25-year-old and praised his abilities.

It was also interesting to hear the PNE boss state that the likeable Aussie perhaps ‘owed the club’.

He is, of course, referring to the time when previous manager Graham Westley was ready to show Wright the door a few years ago but was overruled by owner Trevor Hemmings, who promptly offered the youth product a new contract.

Wright has certainly repaid the faith shown in him since as 200-plus appearances and a League One promotion medal testifies.

And as he heads into his peak years as a footballer, arguably few could begrudge him from keeping his options open.

However, you can understand PNE’s point of view also having invested heavily in Wright’s development over the last eight or so years.