Dave Seddon's verdict: Sheffield United 2 Preston North End 2 - A bit of everything for Emil Riis in dramatic draw at Bramall Lane
Emil Riis experienced a full range of emotions in emerging as Preston North’s End’s late hero in their draw against Sheffield United.
Relief, agony and pure joy registered with the Danish striker at Bramall Lane on Tuesday eventful.
His night was eventful to say the least, beginning with a yellow card for a challenge on Oliver Norwood which had the home fans for red.
At 1-1, he got clean through in the box but saw his shot clip Blades keeper Robin Olsen and clear the bar.
What went through Riis’ mind when a minute later the hosts broke up field and went 2-1 ahead, we can only guess.
Redemption time for him came in the fifth minute of stoppage-time when he fired PNE’s equaliser.
It sparked mayhem in the away end, bodies surfing over rows of seats in celebration and a couple of younger fans making it on to the pitch to celebrate with the players.
How we had missed scenes like that during the staleness of lockdown football, this very much a case of supporters and players coming together.
The point which Riis’ goal brought was deserved by North End.
A draw was a fair result in my book – had Riis scored a bit earlier and PNE won, the home side would have argued they had been hard done by.
United boasted the better possession stats, 63%, but the Lilywhites maintained a threat whenever they pushed forward. They had the character to twice pull level, Daniel Johnson’s 50th goal in a Preston shirt during the first half equalising an early opener from Morgan Gibbs-White.
It is two wins and two draws from the last four games following on from that rotten start of three straight league defeats.
Throw the Carabao Cup win at Morecambe into the mix too, and just at the moment Frankie McAvoy’s outfit are in a good place.
It wasn’t perfect in South Yorkshire for them, with there being aspects of their play which needs work.
They shipped two goals and at times in the second half perhaps invited a bit too much pressure on themselves.
However, North End were prepared to fight until the last kick and their reward came with Riis’ 95th minute goal.
It was an all hands on deck moment as the visitors crowded the box to await Ryan Ledson delivering a free-kick from a few yards inside the United half.
Ledson pumped it forward, the ball skimmed off Jack Robinson’s head and fell to Jordan Storey to the right of goal. The centre-half turned a fine centre across goal to find Riis who controlled six yards out at the far post and fired a right-foot shot into the net.
PNE head coach McAvoy likened it post-match to when Brad Potts had scored late on against Norwich last April.
This was different gravy in my eyes, all but 600 of the 25,463 crowd stunned into silence.
McAvoy had kept faith with the side and subs who had been on the team-sheet at Bristol City last Saturday.
It’s been the same starting XI three games in a row and they do look well balanced.
Mind you, North End made a poor start in the Steel City as they fell behind in the seventh minute.
Patrick Bauer looked to turn a goal kick from Olsen into touch but his clearance lacked power and Luke Freeman kept it in on the left.
He whipped over a cross which flicked off Iliman Ndiaye and landed in the path of Gibbs-White whose shot bounced into the ground and up into the net.
Ledson was involved in both PNE goals, his long raking ball in the 19th minute picking out the clever run of Johnson behind the Blades’ back line.
As Johnson moved to control it just outside the box, Olsen rushed out to try and intercept. The skipper was able to chest it past him and roll a shot into the unguarded net.
PNE keeper Daniel Iversen saved superbly from John Fleck in a one-on-one, then Riis lost out likewise to Olsen at the other end.
Berge, part of a £62m list of subs for the hosts, restored his side’s lead in the 84th minute after Billy Sharp’s miscued shot clipped Bauer and rolled to him.
Then came late glory for Riis, showing a real calmness in the circumstances to hit the back of the net.
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