Five things we learned from Preston North End’s 0-0 draw with Derby County

Ben Davies in the thick of the action against Derby
Ben Davies in the thick of the action against Derby

Preston North End will feel they should have taken all three points against Derby on Friday night.

Harry Wilson hit the woodwork twice for the visitors with shots from distance but the Lilywhites had more of the play across the 90 minutes.

Below we look back at the main talking points.

Progress continues despite it being just one point

After two excellent away wins hopes were high for a third straight victory that would have seen North End move within seven points of the top six. It was more of the same in the opening quarter against Derby, chances being created as PNE started onto the front foot. The visitors grew into the game though and hit the woodwork twice before the interval through Liverpool loanee Wilson. North End then hit back and had something of a purple patch in the second half. While it didn’t hit the heights of two fine away days, this was another really positive performance. This first goalless draw of the season makes it four unbeaten with things continuing to look up, Alex Neil talking bullishly about a late run at the play-offs post-match.

A bit of luck can make a big difference

It was a night where the ball cannoned around the Derby box at times. In the first half a fierce Alan Browne shot hammered into the head of Jayden Stockley and could have gone anywhere but flew wide. Then around the hour four shots were saved or blocked in the space of two attacks when North End looked certain to take the lead. On another day, one of those ricochets into the back of the net. Luck of course works both ways, Wilson’s efforts off the woodwork during Derby’s best spell both bouncing to safety. It ultimately ended honours even on a night where North End will feel they did more than enough to pick up all three points.

Neil getting into groove with team selection

Alex Neil had the luxury of naming the same team for the third game in a row at Deepdale on Friday. Why would he change anything after two excellent wins on the road? The only switch in the squad saw returning skipper Tom Clarke take Paul Huntington’s place on the bench. The manager’s plentiful options are clear, Lukas Nmecha and Tom Barkhuizen used from the bench. The former showed some nice touches but the latter probably didn’t do enough to press his case. Momentum works in many ways and consistency of selection will only help that. It’s difficult to see a large part of this side changing for some time to come.

Pearson still living too dangerously

Ben Pearson tells us he is learning but sometimes his actions just don’t back that up. From our position on the other side of the ground, the midfielder’s tackle on Tom Lawrence in the first half looked firm but nothing untoward. It happened right in front of the dugouts and the PNE bench weren’t happy with first, the award of the free-kick, and then the booking that followed. But TV viewers at home saw a different picture. Pearson left his feet and caught Lawrence with his initial challenge and then the follow through. By the laws of the game it was a clear red card for a dangerous tackle. As it was Pearson got away with one, his ill-discipline so nearly costly again.

Nugent never scores against PNE

The former North End favourite played the opening 69 minutes at Deepdale against his former club. Leaving the field at 0-0, he kept up his record of never having scored against the Lilywhites since leaving. It’s a record that stretches back some way and one that was never in danger of being broken in front of the Sky cameras, one shot in the first half aside. Seeing him play on a Friday at Deepdale prompted a few laughs and he is clearly still fondly remembered, the Derby man’s name sung by the home fans as he left the field.