Frankie McAvoy faces biggest seven days of his tenure as North End boss, says Preston supporter John Roper
The very moving and touching tributes to North End owner Trevor Hemmings before the game precluded what was a very dull afternoon on the field as far as North End were concerned.
The additional 5,000 home fans, in a bumper crowd of 18,092, will not be tempted to return to Deepdale at a higher price if the football on show was of Saturday’s standard.
A wonderfully choreographed 15 minutes leading up to the game had all the crowd on their feet applauding and paying tribute to the man who has underpinned North End’s finances for many years.
However, I am not sure Trevor would have been at all happy with what was served up. The home side were slow and mechanical in their build up with very little quality into the forwards. In midfield we looked laboured and predictable and although the defence kept a clean sheet it was mainly due to the heroics, once again, of on loan keeper Daniel Iversen.
Three changes from the side beaten at QPR a fortnight ago with Andrew Hughes, Alan Browne and Tom Barkhuizen coming in for Ali McCann, Greg Cunningham and Sean Maguire.
However, it was Wayne Rooney’s Derby County who started the better. Morrison had a shot early on that Iversen saved and the big keeper was called into action again saving from Lawrence midway through the half.
North End were offering very little at the other end apart from a Josh Earl header that went wide. Far too often North End were closed down by the visitors and really struggled to get the ball forward with any purpose.
I thought we missed Ben Whiteman in that first half in the centre of the park as North End seemed lost in the engine room.
Ebosele burst through on the stroke of half time but, once again, Iversen saved the shot and spared the blushes of a bewildered looking North End.
Surprisingly there were no changes for PNE at half time and the second half started pretty much as the first half had finished.
However, boss Frankie McAvoy swapped Tom Barkhuizen for Scott Sinclair just before the hour mark and five minutes later Whiteman replaced Ryan Ledson, who I thought had been North End’s best outfield player up to this point.
Whiteman made an immediate impact getting the ball down and starting to make a few telling passes. However, the Rams had a five minute spell when they could have scored three times with Morrison, Davies and finally Jagielka all had efforts all of which were dealt with by Iversen in spectacular fashion.
North End’s one moment to win the game came with just 10 minutes left when Daniel Johnson put Emil Riis clean through but the Dane fluffed his lines and fired his shot straight at the Derby keeper and with that Preston’s chance to steal the three points from this game had gone.
So a day that started with a cacophony of noise and tributes to the late Mr Hemmings ended with North End being booed off both at half-time and at full-time. To be honest it was a fairly quiet atmosphere throughout the 90 minutes with North End offering precious little to inspire the 15,600 home fans inside Deepdale.
Another draw in the league means that North End have taken just six points from the last seven league games and it is almost as if the manager is adopting a don’t lose attitude at the moment as opposed to really taking the game to the opposition.
There is no doubt that Frankie McAvoy faces the biggest seven days of his managerial tenure at Deepdale with a must-win against Coventry City at Wednesday evening at Deepdale followed by an absolute must not lose game at Bloomfield Road next Saturday afternoon.
They say that when the going gets tough the tough get going, well Frankie will certainly have a chance to prove his and the teams toughness over the next seven days in more ways than one.
Support us and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news, the latest football stories and new puzzles every day. With a digital subscription, you can see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.