Preston North End 0 Huddersfield Town 0: Dave Seddon's verdict on a 'nearly' night at Deepdale

Preston North End were the nearly men of this stalemate with Huddersfield Town at Deepdale.

By Dave Seddon
Thursday, 10th February 2022, 7:00 am

They nearly did enough to win it, they nearly took their chances, they nearly got a late penalty.

Just a little bit was missing from their game on the night, the bit to make it count in the penalty box.

Chances fell North End’s way but they were put too near the Terriers goalkeeper or just too high or wide.

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Preston North End striker Cameron Archer takes on Huddersfield's Ollie Turton at Deepdale

On another day, they would have scored two or three, as it was they didn’t score at home for the first time under Ryan Lowe’s watch.

That there was an undercurrent of frustration to PNE’s view of the game is a sign of how expectations have risen in recent weeks.

Huddersfield arrived 12 matches unbeaten and in fifth place, so are no mugs.

They were restricted to a single shot on target, with North End the team on the front foot in the main.

PNE defender Patrick Bauer flicks out a leg to block a shot against Huddersfield at Deepdale

While Lowe’s men were not clinical on the night with the chances created in open play, a penalty should really have come their way to give them an opportunity to win it late on.

Emil Riis was clipped by Tom Lees as he slalomed his way into the box. Referee Robert Jones took the view that Riis had slipped just before the contact.

My view seeing it live was that it was a penalty, with a replay since backing that up.

The contact came before the slip and here we are wandering into the debate of Premier League referees officiating in the EFL.

North End skipper Alan Browne challenges Huddersfield defender HarryToffolo

There is no VAR for them to fall back on, no second pair of eyes to give it another look.

Without that safety net, are they less inclined to make a big call?

It is all academic now and drawing was hardly a disaster, just somewhat frustrating after they’d been the better side on the night.

It’s double figures of league games played under Ryan Lowe now, with four wins, five draws and one defeat.

The upturn in results has nudged North End towards the top of that middle group of clubs in the Championship.

Lowe’s men sit behind 11th place Stoke on goal difference, with them a point better off than Coventry and Blackpool.

They are five points ahead of Millwall and Bristol City, with the gap stretching to seven points between them and Swansea in 17th.

Looking up, PNE are just four points shy of Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough in sixth and seventh place respectively.

Had they won this game, the gap would have been squeezed to just two points.

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Lowe chose to go with Ched Evans and Cameron Archer as his front two.

This was the first Championship match Riis hadn’t started since August, the decision partly down to an injury the Dane is carrying.

He looked lively enough in his 22 minutes on the pitch as a substitute.

Riis gave the PNE attack another dynamic, not only giving the referee a decision to make on the penalty claim but he almost won it deep in stoppage-time.

He got on the end of a cross from Daniel Johnson – PNE’s creative force – and poked a shot goalwards which keeper Lee Nicholls blocked.

A bit more conviction and Riis would have been the late hero for a third home game running.

The majority of North End’s chances were set up by Johnson, restored to the midfield after his stint of international duty.

It was Johnson sliding a pass down the left side of the box to play in Archer who shot across goal in the first half.

Just before half-time, DJ linked-up well with Archer and put in a cross wich Evans swept goalwards and Nicholls pushed out.

Johnson set up two shots for Archer in the second half, the first of which the keeper saved and the second went over the bar.

Archer looked lively but still seemed to be learning PNE’s style of play.

It was only his fifth game and third startand there’s lots more to come.

Sky Sports gave him their man of the match award, I lent the way of Johnson.

A first-half injury to Greg Cunningham is a worry, the Irish defender having worked his way back into the team under Lowe. You hope for a speedy recovery.