PNE supporters John Roper, Tim Mercer and Conor Billington have their say on the draw against Aston Villa
An afternoon to eventually savour at Villa Park for the 2,700 North End fans who roared the boys on from the first whistle to the last. Two cliches come to mind when describing the afternoon, this first of which was that it was certainly a game of two contrasting halves and the second is that it was a draw that felt like a win. Villa were two up at the break but in very controversial circumstances. Chris Maxwell clattered for the first goal and a penalty that never was for the second. In spite of things not going their way North End settled down after the break and played some of the football we have been used to seeing in the past few week. Firstly Jordan Hugill scored a great individual goal and then headed a pinpoint cross from McGeady into the net to send the travelling fans into orbit and give North End a very well earned point.Although we were not being swamped in the first half, we had plenty of defending to do although halfway through the first half Villa took the lead. Agbonlahor latched on to a through ball but as Maxwell came to collect he clattered into the North End keeper only for the ball to run to Adomah who tapped into an empty net. I would have to say that in the majority of cases the referee would have blown up for a foul. If that was contentious then the awarding of a penalty leading to the second goal was a farce. Adomah was put through in the inside right position but McGeady brilliantly tracked back and tackled the Villa man cleanly playing the ball away to safety. North End started to impose themselves in the second half and they found a way back in the match courtesy of a superb individual goal fromJordan Hugill .The side were visibly lifted and just over 10 minutes later North End were level. McGeady weaved his trickery on the left flank and put over a beautiful cross for Hugill to head home. Although we dropped down a couple of places in the table this must rate as an excellent point coming on the back of last week’s win against Brighton and with some key players missing. One of the most encouraging aspects of North End at the moment is the way some of the players on the fringe of the team come in and do not make us any weaker when they get their chance.
A classic game of twocontrasting halves at Villa Park in what was North End’s first league appearance here for over 43 years. A second half comeback by the visitors redeemed the lack of quality and poor performance witnessed in the first 45 minutes of a controversial opening period. Whilst Preston could not complain about being 2-0 down at the break, with Villa missing clear cut chances from their dominant play, they did have a legitimate grievance for the penalty that led to the second goal. Aiden McGeady clearly won the ball with a superb tackle on Albert Adomah, who tumbled over McGeady’s legs at full stretch as he made clean contact leather-on-leather. The linesman had an unobstructed and close view of the incident, but refused to disagree with the referee’s decision and the penalty stood. In all honesty though, this was not the Preston we had seen seven days earlier on home soil, as they seemed incapable of stringing two passes together or of keeping any possession. Most of those around me were expecting substitutions for the restart, but there is no doubt some home truths had been expressed over the Bovril by Mr Grayson, with the chance of redemption offered as an incentive. And boy it worked! A much more even period was followed by the visitors becoming progressively better as the half wore on and culminated in two wonderful goals by Jordon Hugill. The lad has his critics, including me sometimes, but he is a player who is probably best summed-up by Villa boss Steve Bruce’s wry after-match comment of someone ‘who is not easy on the eye, but is very effective’. Also, let us not forget that he is still a young and developing player. In the end a satisfying result that inches us one point nearer to the Championship play-offs and with the team becoming more resilient as the season moves on.
Well, not many would have thought we’d be leaving Villa Park with anything as the referee blew his whistle for half time, but North End are great at proving people wrong, and the second half performance did exactly that! The first half was one where we just really look intimidated by our surroundings and the club we were facing, we never really got stuck in, never really threatened and it looked like we were just going to roll over to a simple and disappointing defeat.The first goal was one which was annoying to concede, it all just looked so simple, Maxwell probably should have done better when leaving the line. As for their second, a fantastic ball-winning tackle from McGeady in the area which the referee ruled as a foul, even after consulting with his linesman who told him it wasn’t. Possibly one of the worst decisions I’ve ever seen given against us. But North End just don’t know when they’re out. A much improved showing in the second half where we had more purpose. We stood up to them more, had them on the back foote! Our first was all down the Hugill, picked up the ball in his own half, and just went for it before unleashing a shot in to the top corner. The 2,700 knew it wasn’t over yet and were given their reward when that same manHugill headed a McGeady cross home.