Millwall 0 Preston North End 0: Dave Seddon's verdict - PNE miss a penalty when their regular taker is thousands of miles away

Geography counted against Preston North End in their goalless draw with Millwall at The Den.

By Dave Seddon
Wednesday, 2nd February 2022, 4:16 pm
Updated Wednesday, 2nd February 2022, 4:45 pm

The fact they got one point and not three, hinged on Ben Whiteman’s penalty miss in the second half.

Had his spot-kick been a couple of inches to the left and found the net rather than the post, it was a fair assumption North End would have left the capital with a win.

There have been a lot worse penalties than the one which Whiteman took.

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Preston North End midfielder Ben Whiteman in action against Millwall at The Den

This was not a case of it ballooning over the bar or being scuffed for the keeper to make an easy save.

However, the cold facts are that it didn’t go in and PNE had to be satisfied with sharing the spoils.

The geography element was the 4,600 miles between the Lilywhites and their penalty-taking expert Daniel Johnson on Tuesday.

Johnson has put away 18 spot-kicks, the fourth-highest number in the club’s history.

PNE skipper Greg Cunningham and Millwall's Danny McNamara hurdle North End goalkeeper Daniel Iversen

International duty meant he was in Jamaica and not South London when referee Kevin Friend pointed to the spot in the 64th minute.

The round of World Cup qualifiers Johnson is playing in were slotted in the calendar outside of the usual parameters.

EFL clubs had chosen not to take a break as their Premier League counterparts had done, hence this being the third Preston game which DJ had missed.

They got by without him perfectly well at West Bromwich Albion last week and drew with Bristol City.

Ben Whiteman hits his penalty against the post in PNE's goalless draw with Millwall

Johnson was missed here, not just because he would normally have been on penalties but because of the craft he provides.

This was the type of game Johnson had the potential to unlock, creativity in short supply on both sides it has to be said.

Let’s not turn this into a witch-hunt on Whiteman for missing it in Johnson’s absence.

He had taken penalties for Doncaster in the past, while in pre-season he scored from the spot in the friendly at Celtic.

PNE manager Ryan Lowe and referee Kevin Friend have a conversation on the touchline

Stepping up from 12 yards was not unfamiliar to him and a bit the other way, Whiteman would have been celebrating in front of 516 PNE fans who braved the midweek trip.

So near yet so far. The fine margins that football matches can hang on.

Whiteman’s miss was one of the few talking points from a contest which had 0-0 written all over it from the opening stages.

Neither side were able to get their attacking players into it, with defences on top.

A 50/50 share of possession and just three shots on target through the 90 minutes, point to a tight game.

North End played the more pleasing-on-the-eye stuff but mainly in areas where it didn’t hurt their hosts.

It was an off-night for Emil Riis and Ched Evans, who got little service.

The night for more about defenders, PNE’s back three of Sepp van den Berg, Liam Lindsay and Andrew Hughes in the main nice and solid.

It was Lindsay playing as the man in the middle instead of Patrick Bauer who got the night off on the bench.

Alan Browne kept Bauer company on the bench save for the last 11 minutes, PNE boss Ryan Lowe protecting the duo from fatigue and injury. In his words, he didn’t want to ‘batter’ them any further, hence their legs being saved for the second away match of the week at Hull City on Saturday.

Lindsay hadn’t featured under Lowe until this game but had caught his manager’s eye in training.

He was used a lot to bring the ball out from the back and looked comfortable enough doing that.

Midfield duties were filled by Whiteman, Ali McCann and Ryan Ledson. McCann was busy but didn’t impact the final third, the engine room without both Browne and Johnson, lacking on this occasion.

The award of the penalty was the third by Mr Friend in the last two PNE games he has taken charge of – he gave two at QPR last season. On this occasion he spotted Shaun Hutchinson clutching a handful of Andrew Hughes’s shirt and dragging him to the floor as they competed at a corner.

Whiteman’s penalty came off the post and bounced back across the box to safety.

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