Dave Seddon's verdict: Birmingham 0 Preston North End 0 - Unbeaten run goes on but it's time for a Championship victory

The first goalless draw between Preston North End and Birmingham City in 42 years won’t live long in the memory.

By Dave Seddon
Sunday, 26th September 2021, 7:59 am

In fact the 1,188 PNE fans who watched from the away section at St Andrew’s will no doubt have forgotten the detail by the time they made it back to Birmingham New Street or done battle with the M6.

Another point on the board, another game added to the unbeaten run but another Championship draw.

That’s four on the bounce and like at Bristol City a fortnight ago, there was perhaps a feeling North End could have come back with all three points.

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Preston North End defend a Birmingham City corner in the goalless draw at St Andrew's

If they were going to win this trip to the West Midlands, it would have been in the first half when they played their best football.

They created three decent chances together with a couple of pieces of opportunism.

In contrast the second half was a non-event from their point of view as it was too for Birmingham bar one flourish soon after half-time.

A point should not be sniffed at but neither overly celebrated.

PNE's Daniel Johnson and Josh Earl challenge Birmingham midfielder Tahith Chong

The league campaign is about an accumulation of points and it was another to add to the collection.

Too many draws though, does bring about a situation when you have to find a win from somewhere and ideally PNE need one from Stoke or Queens Park Rangers – maybe both – before the international break comes around.

The four points gathered from Bristol City, Sheffield United, West Bromwich and Birmingham would look a whole look better when tagged on to a victory or two.

Saturday was a battle, two honest teams toiling in the autumn sunshine.

North End goalkeeper Daniel Iversen saves Maxime Colin's shot in the second half

They matched one another up in terms of formation and when that happens you need a couple of your players to do something a bit out of the ordinary, display that extra piece of quality to make a difference.

Neither side offered a great threat in attack, a moment at either end for Troy Deeney and Emil Riis.

Josh Earl popped up in the Blues box and had PNE’s clearest chance on what was his 50th appearance for the club.

Had that one fallen to a striker or an attacking midfielder, it might have been a different outcome.

PNE substitute Josh Murphy takes on Birmingham's Ryan Woods

That’s not a slight on Earl for his all-round display though, again he was very good and has nailed down that left wing-back slot.

Not since October 1979 had the teams shared a 0-0.

There had been goals in the 32 games which followed before the weekend stalemate.

To be honest from before the hour mark you could have predicted the outcome with some degree of certainty.

It was a case of who blinked first in terms of doing something to make a difference.

The hosts changed both their strikers with around 20 minutes to go, PNE changing a front man and midfielder soon after in response.

Just as the visitors’ back three had held firm in the main against Deeney and Scott Hogan, they did likewise when Luka Jutiewicz and their former loanee Chuks Aneke.

Preston’s strength from in their back line, Jordan Storey, Pat Bauer and Andrew Hughes very solid again.

Storey was my man of the match, his one blot on the copybook a yellow card for dumping Deeney on his backside.

The defender had his left wrist bandaged, a strain from signing his new contract?

This was a 30th game in a row for Storey, in all he has done the full 90 minutes.

Down the sides, Earl and Sepp van den Berg did well but the midfield looked short of creativity.

Up front, Sean Maguire was his usual hard-working self without getting much reward, Riis next to him missing a chance of the type he needs to be be putting away.

For the fifth time in a row in a league game, Frankie McAvoy went same again with the starting XI.

This side came together for the first time against Swansea on August 29, performances giving McAvoy no reason to change it.

I suspect a change or two is not too far away, just for a bit of freshness and energy in the Saturday/Tuesday/Saturday schedule.

Ali McCann is knocking on the door for a midfield start in the league and Josh Murphy’s 20-minute cameo offered some promise.

The big talking point when the team sheet came out was Paul Huntington’s name being among the substitutes.

He was registered in PNE’s senior squad with the EFL after Liam Lindsay tweaked a medial ligament in midweek.

Lindsay might not be out for long but going without centre-half cover on the bench would have been risky.

Huntington’s addition takes North End’s squad up to the 25-man limit.

It could yet come back down to 24 if the hamstring injury suffered by Connor Wickham proves to be more severe than a standard tear.

Clubs can apply to the EFL to take long-term injured players out of their squads.

The main action in this clash was confined to the first 35 minutes or so.

Deeney’s diving header clipped the outside of the top of the post early on, Maguire at the other end charging down a clearance from goalkeeper Matika Sarkic and seeing it just clear the bar.

Earl’s chance came in the ninth minute, the wing-back getting up high to flick on Storey’s ball forward.

Riis chased the flick down the inside channel and played a pass inside which Earl chased into the box.

He chose to aim for the near post when going across goal would have been the better option, Sarkic getting down to push it behind.

Van den Berg’s through ball presented Riis with a shot which the Dane put too close to Sarkic when really he should have buried.

One scare in the second half was Jeremie Bela’s cross hitting Hughes and rolling goalwards, Ben Whiteman clearing off the line.

Maxime Colin’s follow-up was well saved by Daniel Iversen. In terms of chances, that was it for the game.

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