Cardiff City 0 Preston North End 0: Dave Seddon's verdict on a draw which holds PNE back in mid-table

Championship draw specialists Preston North End shared the spoils for a 15th time this season, a statistic which means they are craning their necks looking up at the play-offs rather than being genuine contenders.

By Dave Seddon
Sunday, 13th March 2022, 8:00 am

This South Wales stalemate rarely entertained, it only being in the final quarter of an hour or so when we saw sparks of excitement with a couple of good chances at either side.

Ryan Lowe reasoned that PNE’s chances were more gilt-edged in that they got closer to goal than hosts Cardiff City, but it was hard to argue against the contest ending level.

With them down to single figures of games, the likelihood of a push for the top six is lessening unless they can string three or four wins together.

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Preston North End striker Cameron Archer battles with Cardiff City's Will Vaulks

Such consistency has so far evaded North End this season, three times they have won twice on the spin in league action but that’s been as good as it has got on that front.

Missing at the unimaginatively named Cardiff City Stadium was some imagination in their attacking play, that bit of craft to unlock a solid and unspectacular home side.

Cardiff were happy to put a solid blue wall in front of PNE, at times the hosts almost played like an away team in that they were happy to hold on for a point.

What I will say is that despite the lack of goals, it was a better game than the FA Cup tie between the sides played at the same venue in January.

Preston North End's Ali McCann battles with Cardiff City substitute Rubin Colwill

That one was contested in sterile conditions behind closed doors, Saturday’s game in contrast drew a crowd of 19,743, with 544 Prestonians making the four-hour trip to the principality.

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Preston North End Ryan Lowe delivers frustrated reaction to his side's draw with...

As the scoreline shows, the respective defences were on top. I had Bambo Diaby ahead on points in the starman stakes, with the big fella excellent for a second weekend running.

Only when cramp set in towards the end and fresh-legged substitute Uche Ikpeazu became a handful, did Diaby start to find the going a little tough.

Preston North End midfielder Daniel Johnson makes a run during the goalless draw with Cardiff City

North End look to have landed themselves a good one in the multi-lingual defender and if his first two starts are anything to go by, the offer of a longer-term contract could well be a formality.

At the other end of the pitch, Cardiff’s back three in the main kept the Lilywhites’ attack in check.

Cameron Archer threatened a couple of things but rarely did Emil Riis get a chance to add to his 17-goal haul.

The visitors’ best two chances fell to midfielders Daniel Johnson and Alan Browne.

Preston North End striker Emil Riis brings the ball under control against Cardiff City

Johnson forced a good smothering block from goalkeeper Alex Smithies after evading two challenges to get through on goal, Browne losing his footing at the wrong moment after an Archer shot had been spilled by Smithies.

Ikpeazu had Cardiff’s best two opportunities, both in the last seven minutes, forcing Daniel Iversen into two good saves but nothing on the scale needed late on against Bournemouth the week before.

North End do have a consistency to their results in that defeats have become rare under Lowe, there have been just two reverses in 16 league outings.

It’s the eight draws in his tenure which have held them back and which points towards a steady mid-table finish rather than anything more exciting.

If Lowe has got the Lilywhites to this juncture with a largely inherited squad, got them to the stage of being disappointed with a point on the road, it bears well for when he can recruit in the summer and put his stamp on it.

They are solid enough, this a seventh clean sheet under Lowe, and you can see he wants PNE to play, even if a coat or two more of polish is required.

He has versatility in the squad as was seen by his starting XI and changes made as this game went on.

Liam Lindsay returned after suspension to the left side of the back three, releasing Andrew Hughes to play at left wing-back to limit the forward runs of Cody Drameh on the Cardiff right.

When Lindsay hobbled off after taking a painful knock on the ankle, back inside came Hughes and on came Ali McCann at wing-back.

McCann was to see out the game in a more accustomed midfield position after Browne pulled up with a groin issue.

Archer and Riis got the nod to start up front, Ched Evans having the whole afternoon on the bench. When Riis’ race was run, it was Scott Sinclair who replaced him and not Evans.

We shouldn’t have expected this game being a classic, recent meetings between the sides have been anything but. Just once in eight previous visits to Cardiff’s newish home had North End returned with three points.

It’s now one win in nine, this draw not to be sniffed out but not celebrated either.

The sides were matched up in 3-5-2 formations, former PNE man Jordan Hugill spearheading the Bluebirds attack.

Cardiff are the fifth club Hugill has served on loan since his big-money move from North End to West Ham four years ago and he’s yet to score against his old employers.

He did have the ball in the net in stoppage-time but the whistle had already blown for a foul before the ball got to him.

Had Hugill’s effort counted, that would have been rough justice on North End – while they fell short in terms of creativity, they were defensively sound throughout.

Johnson and Ben Whiteman did their best to make Preston sparkle going forward, Brad Potts saw plenty of the ball in the right wing-back area but struggled to conjure anything up from out there.

Next stop for them is Luton on Wednesday before they head into a 17-day hibernation. A win at Kenilworth Road would be most welcome before feet are put up and batteries get recharged.