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Five things we learned from Preston North End’s remarkable 3-3 draw with Aston Villa

Preston North End had to settle for a point after a pulsating game with Aston Villa ended 3-3 at Villa Park.

The Lilywhites came from 2-0 down to lead 3-2 but needed a Chris Maxwell penalty save with the last action of the game to make sure they took home a point.

Callum Robinson in action against his former club at Villa Park.

Callum Robinson in action against his former club at Villa Park.

Below we take a look at the main talking points.

Football is the best...and worst...game in the world

Where to start with that? It was despair to elation and back down again for the hardy travelling North End fans. For the neutral it was the game that kept on giving, capped by Chris Maxwell’s penalty save with the last kick of the game. Down and out at 2-0 down, all three North End subs scoring looked to have handed them victory with just a few minutes to go. But in a moment that in a way echoed the Lilywhites’ struggles this season Villa hit back with a scrappy goal from a corner in the 91st minute. Then came the penalty. PNE supporters would have feared the worse but there was another twist to come, Maxwell’s stop from Glenn Whelan at least ending Alex Neil’s side’s run of defeats.

There’s life in this side just yet

At half-time our headlines were being written. An awful run going from bad to worse and no sign of any upturn in North End’s fortunes. The transformation in the second half was remarkable given what had gone before. Admittedly they were helped by a red card for James Chester which led to Daniel Johnson’s opener but this was quite the comeback all the same, even with the late heartbreak. This wasn’t enough to lift PNE off the bottom of the table and the draw will be hard to take in the immediate aftermath but in some ways, it certainly looked like the start of something.

DJ might be the most frustrating player at the club

Make no mistake, Daniel Johnson changed this game. His introduction at the break gave North End some added impetus in the middle of the park. Where Ryan Ledson is neat and tidy the Jamaican just gives North End a bit more purpose. His penalty technique isn’t for everyone and only adds to the tension but his record from the spot is only getting more impressive. Then came the moment he will want to forget, his tangle leading to the penalty that so nearly led to North End going home with nothing. Will the real DJ please stand up?

North End remain too wide open

Teams just aren’t having to do anything special to score against North End. There was seemingly no danger when Ahmed Elmohamady sauntered down the right for the opener but his ball into the box was comfortably headed home by Jonathan Kodjia who rose far too easily above Darnell Fisher. The second was even worse. Paul Huntington was robbed by John McGinn with Tammy Abraham then striding into the area and poking the ball home. This is the issue that has dogged their season, not the lack of a target man. You have to work really hard to get any points if you’re conceding two or more a game. That PNE managed it on this occasion can’t hide what needs to change.

Nmecha can be a factor for this team

He’s been on a hiding to nothing in some ways but Lukas Nmecha put in his best North End performance at Villa Park. Having struggled to find his way in a team that was underperforming it was a good night all round for the Manchester City loanee. Even when PNE were up against it he held the ball up well and tried to bring his team mates into the game. In the second half he was more of an out and out threat with the visitors in the ascendancy. Nmecha won the penalty, one Villa boss Steve Bruce was not happy about, having also hit a post. Hopefully a breakthrough night for a player who clearly has bags of potential..