Other sides will punish PNE for starting that slowly
There’s no getting away from the fact that Preston were awful for the best part of half an hour on Saturday. Off the pace, ragged, open at the back, there was little to warm up the Deepdale faithful on this wintery November day. Burton had three openings in the first five minutes, Ben Turner crashing one header off the crossbar, before the impressive Jackson Irvine deservedly gave them the lead in the 23rd minute. It was a poor start that could have been much more costly. Other sides, like the loftier ones who PNE have impressed against in recent weeks, will put games out of reach with the kind of freedom Burton had.
Tempo key to North End’s play
A big part of Preston’s struggles was the lack of tempo to their play. North End plodded forwards in the opening stages, rarely looking like breaking down the Burton backline. Players lacked options when they picked up the ball and often found themselves crowded out. The hosts did grow into the game however and began to move the ball more quickly, at last causing the Brewers some problems. An equaliser in the opening period was perhaps harsh on Burton but it arrived in stoppage time with a high tempo key. Daniel Johnson, Ben Pearson and Aiden McGeady were involved before Greg Cunningham’s cross hit Robinson and rebounded into the net.
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Cutting edge lacking for second week running
PNE then went on to have by far the better of the second half, especially immediately after the interval. A host of openings came and went in the run up to the hour mark but North End couldn’t make their pressure count. The problem was as much creativity and chance creation as it was the ability to work John McLaughlin when the time came. After the initial spell the game calmed and Burton increasingly fancied their chances of snatching a winner that would have brought their first away win of the season. There was to be no breakthrough however as Deepdale witnessed its second straight stalemate.
North End fans not afraid to express their opinions
PNE may have been on a fine run since their sluggish start to the season but the start was so poor on Saturday it was enough to bring out some boos from a small number of fans. Simon Grayson said post match he understood the grievances from the stands, the North End boss having also wanted his side to take the game to Burton in the early stages. The reality is it should have been six points from the last two home games rather than just the two. It is a massive frustration for all concerned but the wider context is that North End are still in a good position, 12th and four points off the play-offs, ahead of the trip to Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.
Pearson continues to be a key cog in the PNE wheel
Many underperformed on Saturday and there might be a case for a few getting a breather at Hillsborough. But Ben Pearson continues to prove his value. Industrious, the former Manchester United youngster covered plenty of ground on Saturday. Whenever the ball was lost he appeared to be there mopping up while also trying to get attacks moving at the other end. His efforts proved in vain, in terms of three points for North End, but his place in the term is now indisputable having barely featured in the opening couple of months.