PNE 1, Burton Albion 1: Dave Seddon’s big match verdict

Callum Robinson scores
Callum Robinson scores
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While this result will be seen by Preston North End fans as very much two points dropped, it did provide a ‘first’ of the season for the Lilywhites.

Simon Grayson’s men got something out of a game in which they conceded the opening goal – a statistic which had not previously gone in their favour this term.

Alex Baptiste goes close

Alex Baptiste goes close

It was a small thing to cling to on an afternoon which both disappointed and frustrated.

The disappointment was with a first-half performance which was below par to say the very least.

In truth, Burton could have been out of sight inside 25 minutes, as it was they had only Jackson Irvine’s goal to show for a dominant opening.

Frustration came after the break as PNE woke up from their slumber, buoyed by a Callum Robinson equaliser in first-half stoppage-time.

They bossed the second half but lacked the guile and craft to break down Burton.

Like the home draw with Wolves a week earlier, it was very much a Bullseye-esque ‘look what you could have won’ occasion.

Had North End breached the Brewers defence when on top in the second half, they would have been sat in eighth place today.

Double the equation, had they beaten Wolves too, PNE would be fifth.

Ifs, buts and maybes, as it is they are in 12th place, the Championship currently a bunched-up affair.

The first goal had proved pretty decisive in Preston’s previous games this season.

In a nutshell, when they scored first they went on to win or draw the game.

All their defeats had come after conceding the contest’s opener – Reading, Fulham, Derby, Ipswich, Barnsley, Brentford and Newcastle (twice).

Hence a feeling of foreboding when Burton went ahead.

So let’s be thankful for small mercies in that North End were able to hit back and force a draw.

At the half-hour mark, I would gladly have taken a point.

Albion seemed inspired by their first trip to Deepdale judging by that opening 30 minutes.

They took the game by the scruff of the neck and the hosts had no answer.

Grayson was to describe the show in the first half as PNE’s worst of the campaign.

I will be kinder and put it second behind what was served-up at Reading in August.

The way Burton got down the sides of North End and threatened at set-pieces had a chilly Deepdale crowd having kittens.

Had it not been for the bar, Chris Maxwell and some ropey finishing, the visitors would have been well ahead way before they did take the lead.

The green shoots of the Lilywhites’ recovery started to show in the run-up to the interval.

Robinson twice tested Albion keeper Jon McLaughlin, then beat him in the second-minute of added-on time.

I think it was Robinson, he claimed the goal anyway.

Jordan Hugill put his hand up for it too, while it might even had been an own goal.

The equaliser did not prevent some stern words being spoken during the interval by Grayson.

Such choice words made for a better second half from a Preston perspective.

For the first 15 minutes, they moved the ball better, kept it on the floor and had four chances to score.

That gave way to a period of still having the majority of the play but mainly in front of Burton’s yellow wall rather than in behind it.

Annoyingly, the keeper was not overly stretched in the closing 20 minutes or so.

That lack of devilment and creativity might well have been down to the fact Paul Gallagher was sat in the stand.

A calf strain ruled him out and the play-maker was missed.

There were still flashes of creativity from Preston, an example being in the build-up for the goal when they moved the ball well from right to left across the pitch.

With Gallagher absent, it fell to Aiden McGeady to be the main creative spark.

North End got him on the ball more in the second half but his decision-making was a bit wayward – wanting to shoot when a cross might have been a better option and vice-versa.

While match sponsors and supporters often differ in their choice of starman, the majority seemed in total agreement that Ben Pearson was PNE’s best player.

Pearson had a busy time in the centre of midfield, combining shielding duties with the job of driving his side forward.

North End went 4-4-2 in this one, Robinson playing off Hugill up front.

Marnick Vermijl got a start on the right-wing, McGeady moving to the left side.

The tone for the first half hour was set by Ben Turner’s second-minute header hitting the bar, with Maxwell showing fine reflexes soon after when Irvine’s shot deflected off the foot of Bailey Wright.

Burton took a 23rd minute lead, Tom Clarke’s headed clearance from a Matt Palmer corner falling to IRVINE who drilled a first-time finish past Maxwell from seven yards.

Parity was restored with half-time moments away.

McGeady started the move down the right channel with a pass inside to Daniel Johnson who in turn played in Pearson.

When McGeady took up possession again, he played in Greg Cunningham down the left side of the box.

Cunningham crossed low into the six-yard box, there being a couple of touches on the ball before it flew in.

It was ROBINSON who slid on his knees to celebrate, signalling it was his goal.