Dave Seddon's verdict: Preston North End 0 Reading 0 - A point gained from a rare Deepdale blankety blank

Alex Neil had spoken recently of wanting Preston North End to draw more games and this was a perfect example of what he was getting at.

By Dave Seddon
Monday, 25th January 2021, 8:00 am

His emphasis was being able to turn defeats into draws in order to bring a touch more consistency to results.

The Lilywhites almost lost this game but didn’t, this having to be seen a point gained rather than two dropped.

It was something to add to the midweek victory against Birmingham, a second clean sheet in a row.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Preston North End midfielder Jayson Moulby battles for possession against Reading's Andy Rinomhota at Deepdale

Not since February 2019 had Deepdale hosted a 0-0 draw, not since the start of July had PNE had a goalless draw anywhere.

This was only a third share of the spoils this season, the previous two both having been 2-2 with Norwich City and Wycombe Wanderers.

Had Royals striker Lucas Joao had his shooting boots on yesterday, like he had done all season, we’d be discussing a home defeat here.

Fourteen times in 17 starts prior to this dinnertime clash, Joao had found the net.

PNE left-back Joe Rafferty protests to the assistant referee after giving away the penalty against Reading

Eight minutes from time he was presented with the chance to add to that tally when Joe Rafferty fouled him to concede a penalty.

Joao picked himself off the cold turf to take the spot kick and dragged it wide.

The PNE faithful watching at home over their Sunday roast let out a collective sigh of relief, so no doubt did Rafferty and his team-mates.

To lose this game would have been harsh, not that they deserved to win it either.

PNE midfielder Ryan Ledson goes to ground under the challenge of Reading's Ovie Ejaria

A draw seemed quite a fair outcome over the 90 minutes, although the visitors could claim that they finished the game the stronger on the back of a better second-half display.

North End, I would wager, were slightly the better of the teams in the first 45 minutes.

They certainly carried more of an attacking threat in the first half before looking somewhat blunted for the duration of the second half.

If anyone deserved to see Joao’s penalty go wide and hence walk off with the satisfaction of a clean sheet, it was Daniel Iversen.

PNE left-back Joe Rafferty's clearance is blocked by Reading striker Luca Joao

PNE’s borrowed keeper put in an excellent show between the posts.

He saved from John Swift and Josh Laurent in the first half, then denied Ovie Ejaria and Sone Aluko in the second.

One which won’t be among the post-match statistics was a fine save from Royals defender Tom McIntyre.

Iversen plunged down to his left to claw away McIntyre’s close-range header.

However, it wouldn’t have counted even had Iversen not produced his heroics, the assistant raising his flag to signal offside.

The Dane, on loan for the rest of the season from Leicester, really looked the part.

He was my man of the match, just edging Ben Davies.

Centre-half Davies turned in the type of display we’ve become accustomed to in recent seasons.

He reads the game, he sees danger that little bit earlier to give him time to adjust.

He doesn’t need to get out of third gear it seems, this a player who I think could adapt to the Premier League.

If somehow PNE could get him out of his present way of thinking regards the contract offer and get him stay, it would be a huge statement.

Just at the moment it seems that Davies wants a change of scene rather than being desperate to get out.

Who knows if a stronger second-half of the season from North End could help him change his mind and stick around beyond the end of this campaign?

Until midday yesterday, Davies was going to have Andrew Hughes to the left of him in Preston’s back four.

Neil had stuck with the same XI which won at Birmingham, taking into account the extra day’s recovery which the Sunday kick-off provided.

The best laid plans and all that. At Birmingham, Hughes had been sent clattering into the advertising boards by a robust challenge from Gary Gardner. The PNE left-back had been left nursing a sore shoulder from the incident.

Hughes had a pain-killing injection pre-match but got no further than the warm-up before being troubled by it.

With Josh Earl having bee ruled out by an ankle injury, Neil turned to Joe Rafferty to play left-back.

It’s a role he played many times last season but it’s not a natural one for him.

Rafferty is right-footed for starters and has to turn inside to get on his natural side.

It limits him but in the main he did a solid job on that side of the pitch.

That was until he went to compete with Joao for a ball on the right-hand side of PNE’s box in the 82nd minute.

They ended-up in a heap on the floor and after a moment’s thought, ref Geoff Eltringham pointed to the spot.

This was Nottingham Forest on January 2 all over again, a game won by the visitors with a penalty at the same end of the ground.

This time fortunate shone on the hosts as Joao’s penalty went wide of the post.

It was some drama for Sky to get their teeth into in the absence of any goals, their pick of this one for live broadcast unlikely to have captured the attention of too many outside of Preston and Reading.

The first-half had been watchable, just 43 seconds gone by Emil Riis chested the ball into Scott Sinclair’s path, his shot from 20 yards pushed behind by Rafael by the foot of the post.

It was Rafael’s North End counterpart Iversen who was to be the busier of the pair.

Iversen warmed his hands by getting both of them to a Swift free-kick, later denying Laurent when he tried his luck with a curling shot.

Rafael saved well low down from Riis before half-time but in the second half was quiet with the play in the main going the other way.

Ejaria saw a shot pushed round the near post by Iversen, Aluko the next player to be denied when Iversen tipped his shot over the bar.

It was a very decent show on his Deepdale debut, with fellow newcomers Jayson Molumby and Ben Whiteman also catching the eye.

Four points from two games in the last few days is not bad going for North End, even if they did get left off the hook by Joao.

Thanks for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 per month for the first two months. Try us today by clicking here