Dave Seddon's verdict: Bristol City 1 Preston North End 1 - Finale to a 354-day season lit up by Daniel Johnson's skill

We waited until the last game of a 354-day season to see the most outrageous piece of skill from the boot of a Preston North End player.

Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 12:39 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 12:41 pm

Maybe it helped that the shackles were off, the clash with Bristol City at Ashton Gate nothing more than a jostling for positions in the pack below the play-offs.

Not that this was a dead rubber as a spectacle, in fact it was an entertaining game with the teams producing 35 shots between them.

The highlight had to be the assist from Daniel Johnson to set up Sean Maguire for his 16th-minute opener.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Daniel Johnson on the attack for Preston against Bristol City at Ashton Gate

Not only did Johnson back-heel the ball to find the run of Maguire, it nutmegged City’s centre-half Ashley Williams to boot.

A wonderful piece of skill, intentional too from North End’s player of the year.

The finish from Maguire wasn’t bad either, a couple of touches, a dummy to put the keeper off balance and into the net it went.

Maguire scoring is not something we’ve talked about a lot this season, this only his fifth goal in 2019/20.

Preston striker Sean Maguire closes in on goal in the second half at Bristol City

You could say he was late to the party with this goal, having not netted since December.

Goals from all the PNE strikers have been collector’s items and is one of the main reason they finished ninth and not in the top six. Maguire could have had a couple more goals in this game, denied by a good save from Dan Bentley in the first half after another tee-up from Johnson.

In the second half a piece of trickery took him into the box but his shot was blocked.

Had he got his head up, the Irishman might have spotted Brad Potts unmarked to the right of him.

PNE substitute Tom Barkhuizen lifts a late chance over the bar

The lead he had given the Lilywhites lasted until the early minutes of the second half when Famara Diedhiou equalised.

Either side could have won it from there so perhaps a draw was the fair outcome.

However, the chances PNE created in the first half could have had it won by half-time.

They had won their five previous visits here going back to 2014 and a sixth on the spin looked on the cards when Maguire found the net.

PNE skipper Paul Gallagher shields the ball from Bristol City midfielder Adam Nagy

It started with Maguire chasing a ball down the left channel and laying it back to Paul Gallagher on the wing.

Gallagher put plenty of pace on his right-foot cross into the box to find Johnson with his back to goal.

The midfielder’s first touch took him away from goal and then he produced that bit of magic to back-heel the ball through Williams’ legs.

Maguire ran on to it and after a couple of steadying touches lifted it past Bentley who had gone to ground.

PNE were the width of the woodwork away from adding to the lead five minutes later.

When Maguire challenged for the ball on the edge of the box it ran loose to Gallagher who saw his first-time shot come back off the bar.

Just before the interval, Maguire collected Johnson’s pass and hit a low shot across goal which Bentley dived to get a glove to, the ball whipped out of Brad Potts’ path as he closed in on the rebound.

It could have been 3-0 – as it was the Robins equalised in the 48th minute. North End were a bit too lax as Andreas Weimann chased a pass down the right-hand side of the box.

His low cross should have been cut out by Joe Rafferty but the ball hit both of his feet and fell to Diedhiou who netted from close range.

The two sides started the game in eighth and 11th respectively, finishing it in ninth and 12th.

North End ultimately fell four points shy of the top six, having spent a good portion of the season in it.

A shortage of goals and not taking chances at key times in games proved their downfall.

Both promoted sides and the four teams in the play-offs out-scored PNE. Goals count so much – just ask Swansea and Nottingham Forest who traded positions in the play-off race at the last moment.