Fans’ Panel verdict: A point won, not two lost, for Preston North End, says John Roper

There will be those that say five draws in five games is relegation form with North End only averaging a point a game, and at a distance you could say that is true.

Wednesday, 29th September 2021, 8:00 am

However this particular game at Deepdale needs to be taken as a single entity, and for my money it was a point won rather than two points lost.

Stoke looked much better than recent seasons and their fast breaking football had PNE in trouble early on in this game with Nick Powell scoring with a well-placed header as early as the seventh minute.

It took a brilliant free-kick from Ben Whiteman seven minutes from the break to restore parity but at several points in the game I found myself thinking that a point might not be such a bad outcome based on what I had seen.

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Preston North End’s Emil Riis Jakobsen battles with Stoke City’s Harry Souttar

To be fair to North End we got better as the game wore on but it still needed a couple of top-drawer saves from Daniel Iversen in the second half to ensure we got a share of the spoils.

Frankie McAvoy made just one change to the North End line-up with Greg Cunningham coming in at left centre back for Andrew Hughes who was out with a knock.

It was from that position that the visitors took the lead with less than seven minutes on the clock as a Tymon cross found Powell unmarked and he made no mistake with a powerful header across and past Iversen.

Preston were on the ropes for a few moments as Iversen saved well but gradually we started to make an impact into proceedings.

Riis shot across goal with a good effort but it was Iversen again who made a great save from Powell on the half hour.

North End started to press forward and won a free-kick in a central position 20 yards from goal.

Whiteman claimed the ball as if it was a penalty and fired an absolutely ferocious free-kick past Davies to put North End level in front of just 10,930 fans with a sizable contingent from the Potteries.

No changes by either manager at half time and if PNE had gone in buoyant at the break they were soon on the defensive again as the visitors started the second half the stronger of the two teams.

North End saw off the challenge and had a couple of decent chances themselves via a Ledson shot and a Cunningham thunderbolt the clipped the outside of the far post.

Browne was then introduced for Maguire as North End went with just one up for a while with Browne and Johnson playaing behind Riis.

McCann replaced Whiteman with 20 minutes to go but it looked to me like Frankie was making us more difficult to break down rather than taking the game to Stoke as he had promised to do before the game.

Iversen then made a couple of brilliant saves within a few minutes of each other as the game started to stretch with both teams going tired.

Murphy was introduced but to no avail and the points were shared on a rainy Autumnal evening at Deepdale.

So the debate will continue on whether this is a good run of nine games undefeated (seven in the league and two in the Carabao Cup) or whether we will pay the price for drawing so many league games later in the season.

Five league games on the bounce have ended all square but I can’t really say North End have been looking to defend in those games.

It is, for the most part, that we have not finished our chances off.

To be fair to Stoke I thought they looked very organised and executed their game plan very well but they could be got at in defence and I thought, once again, we played the ball too much in the air trying to turn their defenders round instead of getting it down and playing through our midfield.

Anyway a point is a point as they say, but we really could do with taking all three at Loftus Road on Saturday before the second of the international breaks kicks in.