Ten-man Preston North End battled for a point at Brentford on Saturday.
There were plenty of talking points as the Lilywhites held on after Greg Cunningham's red card in the second half.
Griffin Park is never an easy place to go
Okay, we already knew that. PNE have a horrible record at Brentford and Greg Cunningham’s second-half red card looked like making this another miserable day for the Lilywhites in West London. But to their credit, Alex Neil’s men battled hard and survived the final quarter of an hour and five minutes of stoppages to have something to show for their efforts, ending a run of four straight defeats at Griffin Park. It wasn’t pretty at times but this is certainly a point gained in the long run and one that keeps North End three points outside the play-offs. Cunningham will not look back fondly on the red card with the two bookings coming within 70 seconds of one another. As well as making things difficult for the visitors in the closing stages it also means another switch in the back four when leaders Wolves come to town next week.
Browne is a menace
Alan Browne proved to be an able deputy in the middle of the park for Ben Pearson at Griffin Park. Pre-match the teamsheet suggested that Daniel Johnson might be the man to partner Paul Gallagher in the middle but Browne played deeper than he has done in recent weeks. Alex Neil probably gave him the nod over the more natural sitter John Welsh due to Brentford’s style of play. The Irishman was a key figure in North End’s pressing approach, robbing the ball early in the piece as Tom Barkhuizen twice went close with shots. He also showed what a willing runner he is in a bid to help contain a mobile Brentford midfield and forward line with some key interceptions. Welsh did get his chance as a second-half replacement for Gallagher but featured at a time when PNE were up against it.
Left-footed options a big boost at the back
Having a left-footed centre half gives sides real balance and isn’t a luxury many teams have. For North End they have two to choose from. Ben Davies has established himself as one of the mainstays of the side this season, all that after Tommy Spurr made a decent start to the season. With Tom Clarke injured and Davies still not back from his own hamstring problem Spurr was back alongside Paul Huntington having not played since September due to a knee injury. It was a tough game to come into given Brentford’s fluid frontline. Neal Maupay proved a handful but Spurr was an offside flag away from opening the scoring in the first half as he confidently headed home a Gallagher free-kick.
North End suit the high press
As against most passing sides North End have come up against this season, Alex Neil’s men pushed right up on the home side when they had the ball on Saturday. It created one early break for Robinson before he was unceremoniously felled by Josh McEachran as the Lilywhites looked to make Brentford play long from the back. It’s a tactic that suits a North End side that is full of running. This wasn’t quite Fulham at Craven Cottage in terms of a flying start but the Lilywhites certainly look at home when pressurising defenders who might be used to having more time on the ball. That obviously went out of the window in a backs-to-the-wall final 15 minutes.
Fisher pushes his luck a little too much at times
Cunningham’s red card aside it was a day were North End needlessly pushed their luck. Darnell Fisher has openly talked about trying to kill games away from home. The right back has admitted using shall we say, time management, when it comes to throw-ins. His tactic was jumped on straight away by referee Simon Hooper at Griffin Park. With some help from the home crowd, Fisher was a marked man from the opening whistle almost. When he tried to delay at Brentford free-kick just after the half hour Mr Hooper’s patience was already being pushed and a booking was the result. It’s not a position a full back needs to be in so early in a game.