Dave Seddon's verdict: Huddersfield 0 Preston North End 0 - Lilywhites are rock solid at one end but blunt at the other

Danny Cowley was surely clutching at straws when he claimed there was an element of enjoyment to be gained from his Huddersfield side’s stalemate with Preston.

By Dave Seddon
Sunday, 5th July 2020, 8:00 am

Entertainment really was at a premium, just one shot registering on target in the 98 minutes played.

North End had the edge throughout but creativity in the areas where it really mattered was in desperately short supply.

Rock solid at one end, blunt at the other would be the best way to sum it up.

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Preston North End left-back Andrew Hughes slides in to tackle Huddersfield's Collin Quaner

Huddersfield offered even less than going forward than their visitors did.

Even though theirs was the single effort on goal, it was nothing more than a speculative drive from distance which Declan Rudd took into his chest without having to move.

Despite fielding a forward line of 16-goal Karlan Grant together with Elias Kachunga and Fraizer Campbell, their attacking ambition was limited to say the least.

Terriers manager Cowley was to explain his tactical thinking in the Zoom press conference.

PNE midfielder Ben Pearson tackles Huddersfield's Alex Pritchard

“If you really like football and like the tactical part of the game, watch us against the ball,” said Cowley.

“We did a lot of good work, we were really compact and really organised. We played a really good Preston team – no shots on target.

“It wasn’t until the last five minutes where we got a bit leggy that we gave them any chances.”

Cowley and sibling Nicky who is his assistant, proved something of a distraction to the on-pitch action.

Ryan Ledson challenges Lewis O'Brien

Alex Neil is hardly the shy and retiring type in the technical area but compared to those two is a shrinking violet.

Every decision, including the award of a throw-in on the far side of the pitch, was contested by the brothers.

It actually got tiresome, fourth official Andy Haines taking the brunt of it.

Neil chipped away too but it was mainly London accents rather than Bellshill tones which echoed around the empty stadium.

PNE and Huddersfield clash behind closed doors at the John Smith's Stadium

Lilywhites boss Neil watched his side leave the pitch win-less for a seventh game in a row.

They did deserve more from this visit to Yorkshire on the balance of play and ambition but when you can’t put the ball in the net, you aren’t going to get your rewards.

Neil has tried a different player in the striker role in the four games since football was restarted.

It was Sean Maguire at Luton, Jayden Stockley against Cardiff, David Nugent last week when Derby paid a visit, then Tom Barkhuizen at the John Smith’s Stadium on Saturday.

Whatever Neil tries up front at the moment, it is not working.

Barkhuizen did his best to stretch the Huddersfield back line and for a spell in the first half it looked promising.

Later on he was switched wide as Stockley and Maguire joined the attack, before coming off with the clock having ticked into the 89th minute.

It was after that in time added on that North End were to have their best spell of the game in terms of creating chances.

Scott Sinclair put shots wide of either post in quick succession, then Maguire fired into the side-netting with the last kick of the game.

Maybe that was down to the hosts becoming a bit ragged at the back as much as it was PNE suddenly finding a creative spark. It was just a shame they couldn’t have done so a bit earlier to have given themselves more of a chance of victory.

With two more points dropped, Preston’s bid to get back in the top six just got a lot more difficult.

They are six points behind Cardiff who occupy the final play-off slot with five games to play.

By the time North End play again at Sheffield Wednesday in midweek, the gap could yet be greater with Cardiff playing 24 hours earlier.

So the Hillsborough trip could yet be a pint in the last chance saloon as far as PNE’s promotion hopes are concerned this season.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom on Saturday, although the success or otherwise has to be result-driven at such a critical stage.

While there were those limitations in the final third, there was more purpose about Preston’s play than there had been against Derby.

Neil gave Ryan Ledson a rare start, his first in the league since that November night at Hull when he played as an emergency right-back.

The last Championship game he had started in his accustomed midfield role was against Huddersfield in the reverse fixture.

Ledson was decent in this one, more than decent actually. Only when his calf cramped up with six minutes left was he substituted.

Ben Pearson did fine next to him and Alan Browne looked more like his usual self in the advanced midfield role.

Patrick Bauer, restored to the defence after being benched against Derby, was solid next to the impressive Ben Davies.

There was another steady show from Joe Rafferty in the right-back berth.

Brad Potts had a strong first-half in a tucked-in role on the right before fading as the game went on.

It’s that last section of the pitch though, where things aren’t gelling.

North End’s outfield starters had only 22 goals between them this season.

Daniel Johnson, scorer of 12 goals, was missing again through injury, with six-goal Paul Gallagher joining him on the casualty list.

What a lift PNE would have got had one of the trio of late chances which fellt their way had gone in.

Sinclair ran on to Maguire’s hooked pass but scuffed his shot wide of the near post with 93 minutes played.

The January signing then cut inside off the left and curled a right-foot shot just wide of the far post.

With the six minutes of additional time up, Potts’ header forward allowed Maguire to make room down the left side of the box but he shot into the side-netting.