John Roper’s Preston North End Fans’ Panel verdict: Time to take stock to see where we can take next step

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The season ended for North End with a very creditable 1-1 draw at Ashton Gate in a free flowing game that I actually thought we had the better of.

Certainly in the first half I thought we were the better side and with a bit more luck in front of goal we have gone in comfortably ahead of Bristol City.

After the break the home side came into it much more and with chances at either end the game could have gone both ways after City had equalised just three minutes into the second half.

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PNE took a while to steady the ship but nevertheless looked a little bit more dangerous than the home side on the break with chances late on that could have won the game.

Brad Potts on the attack at Ashton GateBrad Potts on the attack at Ashton Gate
Brad Potts on the attack at Ashton Gate

I think Alex Neil will be both pleased and disappointed after the game as he will be pleased with the performance but perhaps may think that North End should, in fact, have taken all three points.

North End started the game in their now very familiar green and yellow, with Alex Neil making just one change to the side that beat Birmingham City and that was Seam Maguire replacing the unlucky Jayden Stockley at centre-forward.

North End started brightly but it was Declan Rudd who was PNE’s saviour as early as the third minute with an excellent save from a Robins’ free-kick. It was probably City’s best chance of the half as Preston started to dictate the game in midfield with Johnson, Harrop and Potts interchanging really well.

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No surprise, then, when North End took the lead after 16 minutes when a clever Johnson back-heel found Maguire clean through and the much-maligned striker played a delicate chip into the net.

Paul Gallagher hit the bar soon after as North End continued to dominate.

A couple of half-chances for the home side late on but Neil’s boys certainly deserved to take their 1-0 lead into the break with the sun setting on Ashton Gate.

No doubt that the home side must have had a stern talking-to in the interval as they came out with much more purpose and tempo than they had shown in the first forty five minutes.

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In fact it took the Robins just three minutes to equalise after they broke down the right and the cross was not dealt with by Rafferty allowing Diedhiou to knock the ball home just a few yards out.

It was a poor goal to concede in all honesty and when City had another shot straight at Rudd it started to look a little ominous for North End.

Fortunately we got our heads together and with the ship looking much steadier we had a couple of good chances which fell to Gallagher and Maguire respectively but both came to no avail.

Both sides went for a winner late on without trying to give too much away at the back and the game ended level after an entertaining end of season encounter.

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So this most disjointed of seasons finally ends with Preston finishing ninth in the Championship on 66 points. Ten points from nine games post-lockdown has seen us fall short of the play-offs by five points if you take goal difference into account.

Two wins, four draws and three defeats since the re-start has not been enough and to those who said we need 15 points to reach the play-offs, you can congratulate yourselves because that turned out to be exactly the equation.

No doubt that we have played better in the last five games than we did in the first four but the season is judged on 46 games and everyone in the division has finished where they deserve to finish.

Many will argue that if a decent striker had have been signed in the January window then it might have been Preston North End in sixth position and not Swansea but for now it’s time to take stock, see what went wrong and just see if we can go one better next season.