Dave Seddon's verdict: Bristol City 0 Preston North End 0 - a decent point but could it have been more for PNE?
How would you bracket this result – a point won, two dropped or about fair?
I’d put it into the latter category, Preston North End and Bristol City both knowing they could won the Ashton Gate clash but just as easily have lost it.
This was a first 0-0 draw between the sides for 14 years, the 23 meetings in between having produced 62 goals.
A touch of bad luck in front of goal and blunt finishing left PNE blank at one end.
At the other, the Robins weren’t clinical either but they also found Daniel Iversen in decent form.
The Lilywhites goalkeeper produced three good saves over the course of the game when City chanced their arm with shots from distance.
On an occasion when they got too close in the box, Iversen dived at the feet of Chris Martin to whip the ball off the striker’s toes.
So all in all, a point was not to be sniffed at as North End made it three games unbeaten in Championship.
Seven points from nine has put that rotten start of three straight defeats to bed.
Stern tests are ahead this week in the shape of Sheffield United on Tuesday night and West Bromwich Albion next Saturday.
So it was imperative PNE put something on the board in the West Country to head into that tough double header.
The stats from Saturday showed an even game – a 50/50 share of possession, 10 shots each, the home side with three of those on target to Preston’s two, while they shaded the corner count eight to six.
I would wager the visitors’ chances were slightly more gilt-edged than their hosts.
One of those off-target efforts was a Sean Maguire shot which hit the bar.
Another from the same player flashed across the face of goal and travelled just wide of the far post.
Maguire’s strike partner Emil Riis missed what on the face of it was a sitter – losing his footing as he met Josh Earl’s centre six yards out and sending the ball into the away end rather than the back of the net.
Hence a frustration among some of the travelling faithful that three points weren’t taken.
But their counterparts in red and white no doubt had similar feelings when Iversen stood tall to deny the home side.
There were spells when Bristol City looked threatening, notably 25 minutes or so in the first half when they got on top and then in the closing stages.
But PNE enjoyed a good start and finish to the first half, while in the second they traded attacks with the hosts.
The game deserved a goal or two, this not by any stretch a dull 0-0.
There were plenty of plus points which North End brought back up the M5 and a jammed M6.
In Daniel Johnson they had the game’s best player, with City’s Han-Noah Massenego not far behind.
Johnson has often found Ashton Gate to his liking over the years and this contest was no exception. He picked out a succession of good passes, the reverse ball which set up the second of Maguire’s chances just perfect.
Him being substituted in the closing stages were therefore a surprise with PNE still in with a chance of getting all three points.
Maguire was very good throughout, like against Swansea doing so much good work outside the box linking midfield and attack.
Ultimately he didn’t trouble the scorers but it was good to see him offer more of a threat in the box than he has been doing.
The two wing-backs Sepp van den Berg and Earl caught the eye with the work they did going forward.
Frankie McAvoy has done a lot of work to get them higher up the pitch and provide an attacking threat rather than sitting deep to make a back five.
McAvoy’s team selection had not been a difficult one, even with Ali McCann and Josh Murphy having joined the squad since the last game.
He stuck with the XI which had started the 3-1 victory over Swansea a fortnight earlier, McCann and Murphy introduced later in the match from the bench.
Murphy was the striker option among the substitutes with Ched Evans currently on a phased return and Scott Sinclair out ill.
North End came out of the blocks quickly, home keeper Dan Bentley having to slide feet-first to get to a Johnson pass that split second before Maguire did.
Van den Berg was found in space down the right hand side of the box by Ben Whiteman’s pass, but lifted a shot too high at the near post when going across the keeper would have served him better.
That was the sign for the home side to start to get a grip on the play.
Iversen dived to palm away Rob Atkinson’s shot from 20 yards, North End having been generous in allowing the defender to run at them from a deep starting position.
PNE rallied late in the half, Maguire running on to Ryan Ledson’s pass to shoot against the bar. He latched on to Johnson’s pass and saw his shot go just the wrong side of the far post.
Iversen got fingertips to a shot from Massengo after half-time, the winger with masses of curly hair having pulled the trigger from distance.
Earl set up two chances in quick succession, the first with a low delivery to the near post which Maguire made the first contact with before Johnson’s follow-up hit the keeper and went behind.
The second saw him knock the ball across the six-yard and into the path of Riis who slipped as he shot and ballooned it over.
Riis was later subbed with Ledson, McCann and Alan Browne replacing them.
Johnson making way for Murphy was the final change.
Getting Murphy on the pitch was understandable, but it being at the expense of the skipper was a surprise.
McAvoy had moved Johnson to play to the right of Maguire – with McCann on the left – not long before.
It would have been interesting to see whether his craft and creativity would have lent itself to a late flurry.
As it was, PNE got their first away point of the season.
Thanks for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 per month for the first two months. Try us today by clicking here