Preston were pegged back twice by Stoke as an entertaining clash at Deepdale ended all square on Saturday evening.
REACTION: Alex Neil left frustrated by draw with Stoke
There were plenty of talking points as Paul Gallagher and Graham Burke got the goals for North End only for Erik Pieters and Peter Crouch to reply for the Potters.
When it’s good - the Championship is very good
This was as good a game as you’re likely to see at this level. Pulsating, engrossing, the adjectives go on. There was a fine blend of good football and full-blooded tackles, as the two sides went toe-to-toe. North End went in front twice only to be pegged back on both occasions with both sides having to settle for a point. PNE will feel perhaps rightly feel they had the better of things with both of the goals they conceded avoidable to a degree. Erik Pieters had too much time to fire home an admittedly fine strike while Peter Crouch was perhaps fortunate to see the ball go in off his back. As for their own goals, Preston's fans saw Paul Gallagher do what Paul Gallagher does from the spot while Graham Burke’s controlled volley was a fine sight.
Alex Neil is a winner, through and through
As excellent as the spectacle was, the PNE boss was clear on what mattered post-match. Lovely football, nice goals, catching the eye in front of the Sky cameras all matter not when you don’t get over the line and pick up the three points. There were lots of positives but it is clear that winning is pretty much all that matters to the North End manager. This has certainly been a promising start to the season, but Neil admitted post-match that his side should have at least one more point considering the performance in the second half at Swansea. But good displays don’t get you in the play-offs and Neil is only too aware of that
Paul Gallagher might be hearing from the FA
It’s an incident that well, isn’t really very Paul Gallagher. A raised arm to the face of Joe Allen towards the end of the first half enraged the Stoke players who thought the midfielder had used an elbow. Allen was left with a cut to the nose and the FA may take a dim view of it in the days to come, a three-game ban a possibility. Post-match PNE boss Neil said his player had told him there was no malice, it was more an attempt to shield Allen away from the ball rather than cause him harm. Gallagher has never been that type of player but there’s a reasonable chance a suspension might be coming his way.
PNE can mix it up when they have to
Gallagher may in some people’s view have taken things a step too far but North End showed against the Potters that they can take the rough with the smooth. They certainly played the more flowing football on the day, something Neil has been working tirelessly on since the moment he stepped through the door at Deepdale in July 2017. But the Lilywhites also stood up to the physical challenge when they had to. That didn’t just come in the tackle but also in a resolute defensive display that was led by skipper Tom Clarke. Having handled Benik Afobe well the captain was then tasked with doing the same with goalscorer Crouch and pretty much headed everything that came his way.
Louis Moult offers North End something different
Lukas Nmecha again got the nod up top but and showed what qualities he has, as he had done at Swansea seven days earlier. Once his race was run though Stoke boy Moult got the chance to shine against his former club. He is a different type of striker but no less of an asset going forwards. Moult isn’t finding himself at the sharp end in the penalty area as much as he would like but proved again on Saturday evening that he can be a fine link man. Nice touches and headers brought others in to play on several occasions. With Sean Maguire to come back from injury and the long talked about target man still a possibility, competition is going to get even fiercer in the final third.