Dave Seddon's verdict: Preston North End 0 Derby County 0 - PNE's display fails to hit the right note on a big day

Ten out of 10 off the pitch but way further down the scale on the grass was the way to rate the day Preston North End honoured Trevor Hemmings.

Sunday, 17th October 2021, 8:00 am

The tribute to the ‘boss’ was lump in the throat stuff, watching the video played on the big screen at 2.50pm was emotional to say the least.

You couldn’t help but be moved by the sight of a flat cap being placed on the centre spot and then located for the duration of the game behind the goal at the Town End.

An 18,000 plus crowd was perhaps the grandest gesture from the North End faithful to the man who had owned the club for 11 years and had an involvement for 48 years.

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Floral tributes on the Splash statue outside Deepdale to Preston North End owner Trevor Hemmings

Charity was the big winner with all gate receipts going to the good causes which Mr H supported.

The contrast between the occasion and the display served-up by PNE, was huge.

Their first-half showing was dreadful, Derby bossing it to the extent where Frankie McAvoy used the word ‘superior’ post match.

Possession is not the be all and end all of a game but the Rams had the ball for 71% of that first half – that’s huge.

North End striker Emil Riis evades two Derby defenders at Deepdale

It levelled out slightly to a 62%-38% share overall by reason of the Lilywhites being a bit better in the second half.

The better chances well the way of the visitors, Daniel Iversen the busier of the two goalkeepers by far.

That said, Emil Riis should have won the game for Preston eight minutes from time when he got one-on-one with Ryan Allsop but put his shot far too close to the keeper.

Had Riis scored it would have been an undeserved win but a result the vast majority inside Deepdale were crying out for.

PNE midfielder Daniel Johnson makes a run against Derby

They wanted a victory so much to honour the owner, in the end a barely deserved draw was what they had to be content with.

While for some at Deepdale on Saturday this was very much an occasional visit, there were others who go a bit more often and just need to be given a nudge to attend on a more regular basis.

This was not a performance to tempt them to click through the turnstiles every other Saturday and push the average crowd size up a little.

Whether or not the backdrop to the game got to some of the PNE players, I’m not sure.

PNE head coach Frankie McAvoy at the final whistle

But in the first half they looked like a side playing the occasion rather than the game.

They couldn’t seem to raise a gallop, with passes going astray, forward momentum lacking and seemingly allowing Derby to be first to everything. It took North End half an hour to created their first chance, in fact it was probably the first venture into the Derby box worthy of any note.

The Rams are bottom of the table by reason of being deducted 12 points, a plight few in football have any sympathy with.

They are no whipping boys though, Wayne Rooney’s side would be mid-table without the deduction.

So this was never going to be a stroll in the park for PNE, whatever the occasion. But what you would have expected was a much better display than this, one where they allowed Derby to bypass them with ease.

So many times the visitors found space between the North End midfield and back three in which they build attacks.

The 3-5-2 system has in the main served them well since McAvoy took charge but on this occasion, it stifled them.

A rare switch to a 4-2-3-1 later on gave the hosts more forward thrust and led to a better spell of play.

That in turn led to a rise in the volume, the atmosphere having been rather flat once the pre-match tributes had been paid.

McAvoy had made three changes to the starting XI which had featured at Queens Park Rangers before the international break.

Andrew Hughes, Alan Browne and Tom Barkhuizen came into the side, out went the injured Sean Maguire and Ali McCann, so too Greg Cunningham who dropped to the bench.

PNE were better for the return of Hughes in the back three, with the Welshman one of their better performers.

Browne got McCann’s place in midfield, Barkhuizen the choice to partner Riis in the forward line.

They were paired for their pace, bearing in mind Derby’s centre-halves Phil Jagielka and Curtis Davies are aged 39 and 36 respectively.

However, North End failed to get the experienced pair isolated against Riis and Barkhuizen.

The few times they got the ball forward in the first half, Barkhuizen had pulled off wide in a bid to find some space to play in.

So rarely were him and Riis close enough to one another to link-up in the manner Riis had been doing with Maguire.

In midfield, Ryan Ledson’s passing was off radar, with skipper Alan Browne not able to impact the game.

Service was lacking to get the ball to Daniel Johnson in the No.10 role, his defensive responsibilities restricted by a fifth-minute yellow card for bringing down Jason Knight.

Johnson had to be careful choosing when to make a challenge, knowing if he got another wrong, the next card could have been red.

Daniel Iversen being PNE’s starman said a lot about which direction the play went in.

The Dane made three saves in the first half, tipping a shot from Ravel Morrison over the bar, diving to push out a Tom Lawrence effort, then getting in the way of Festy Ebosele’s shot at the near post.

They were all saves you would have expected Iversen to make but were decent all the same.

A fourth in the second half asked a bit more of him, that coming in the 66th minute.

Davies looped a header from a Knight cross into the bar with the ball dropping to Jagielka at the far post.

He sent a header goalwards, Iversen spreading himself to block next by the post.

Riis’ chance of glory came from Johnson’s through ball, sending him into the box on a very slight angle.

He seemed to get the ball caught under his feet, hence his shot being rushed and far too close to Allsop to save.

This was a sixth draw in seven league games, the last win against Swansea at the end of August seeming a long time ago.

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