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Dave Seddon's verdict on PNE's draw at Norwich

PNE striker Jordan Hugill wins a header
PNE striker Jordan Hugill wins a header

Preston North End clocked-on for some overtime to keep their recent revival in form going.

The second half of the trip to Carrow Road lasted an hour due to an injury to one of the assistant referees and the farce that then surrounded the attempt to keep the match officials’ team fully-staffed.

Tom Barkhuizen and Paul Huntington celebrate PNE's equaliser

Tom Barkhuizen and Paul Huntington celebrate PNE's equaliser

North End maintained their concentration in that extended spell to earn a draw and in fact, could have won it with a late chance.

But a share of the spoils was a decent enough return and completed a job well done on the road in recent days.

It followed Tuesday night’s 2-1 win at Bristol City, four points garnered from two very tough-looking fixtures.

Taking into consideration too the goalless draw at home with Bolton, PNE appear to be taking steps back in the right direction after the wobble of October and early November.

Josh Harrop shields the ball from Marco Stiepermann

Josh Harrop shields the ball from Marco Stiepermann

A lengthy casualty list was the main reason for shaking them into wobbling status.

The more players leaving the physio’s treatment table and being back available on the pitch, has steadied things.

As the injuries piled-up, Alex Neil consistently made the point that it was a case of getting through that spell as painlessly as possible ready for when more numbers were available to him.

Five points from three games achieved with some of the walking-wounded back, has endorsed Neil’s thinking.

PNE skipper Paul Huntington

PNE skipper Paul Huntington

This clash in Norfolk was his return to Carrow Road, eight months on from being sacked by Norwich.

It was a somewhat low key homecoming, a polite round of applause about the size of it from the home fans.

From the outside looking in, the Canaries didn’t look in any better shape than they were when showing Neil the door in March.

For spells, PNE were the better side and could point to having the more clear-cut chances over the course of the 100 minutes.

An Alan Browne overhead kick hit the bar, Calum Woods headed straight at the keeper when it was easier to score and Tom Barkhuizen squandered a stoppage-time one-on-one.

Barkhuizen got the goal which earned the draw, showing the instinct of a poacher to turn the ball over the line from close range.

It equalised a first-half free-kick from James Maddison, a player signed by Neil when he was at the Norwich helm.

Never in Neil’s time as a boss, whether that be with Norwich, PNE or Hamilton, had he seen the bizarre scenes which developed in the latter stages of this game which had been a decent watch.

The starting point was an 81st minute injury to assistant referee Mark Jones.

He pulled up with what looked like a groin strain and to be fair, Mr Jones looked in a lot of pain as he made his way from the far side of the pitch to the tunnel.

We assumed there would simply be a job-swap, indeed fourth official Andy Davies was passed the flag and went out to run the line.

But the decision was taken that Mr Jones was not right to do fourth official duties.

Step forward David Thornhill from the crowd, a local referee and Norwich supporter.

It was Neil who alerted the referee to Mr Thornhill’s presence next to the away dug out.

He is no rookie to this sort of situation it turns out, having stepped-in four times in similar circumstances.

But for the 15 minutes of added-time eventually played, we had a fourth official clad in a referee’s coat and a pair of jeans, wielding the numbers board.

Maybe it would be good sense for the FA to make a fifth official available to all clubs to cover events of this nature.

It could just be a local ref on a retainer, there to step-up to doing some of the duties done by the fourth official.

This incident was to kill the game as a spectacle, however bizarre the circumstances.

Having stood around for 10 minutes, the players seemed to lose the energy from their legs and momentum.

There was a chance each after the resumption, the best falling to Barkhuizen only for him to take a heavy touch as he got clear to meet a through ball from Callum Robinson.

A word for Robinson at this point, he was one of the North End players to catch the eye.

Having come off the bench to score at Bristol City, he got the nod to start this time in place of the injured Stephy Mavididi.

Neil felt it was Robinson’s best display of his tenure and it would be hard to disagree with that line of thought.

He assisted in three of the best chances which fell the way of Preston, while he also put a header too high himself.

PNE’s starman for me though, was Paul Gallagher.

Operating in the midfield two next to Daniel Johnson, the 33-year-old lent all of his experience to this youthful team with a great range of passing.

Players can get written off too quickly when they are on the fringes of the squad but Gallagher has shown of late that there is plenty of life left in him.

His season has effectively only just started when you bear in mind the rotten run of fitness issues he had.

A tight hamstring which dogged his pre-season is an occupational hazard.

But for him then to suffer a bad concussion and then be hit with a bout of shingles, was a double helping of bad run, one he is now out of.

Chances came at both ends in the opening spell, before PNE fell behind in the 33rd minute.

Maddison whipped in a free-kick right-footed from just outside the left corner of the box, the ball curling over Chris Maxwell into the net.

Neil called it a ‘moment of magic’, but others called into question the keeper.

Browne almost equalised within five minutes,taking a Jordan Hugill header on his chest before acrobatically trying his luck with an overhead kick, one which hit the bar.

Parity was to be restored with 20 minutes left.

Gallagher’s corner kick from the right was met six yards out by Paul Huntington with a powerful header.

As it travelled goalwards, Barkhuizen flicked the ball with his left foot past keeper Angus Gunn and two covering defenders on the line.