You would not need to be in possesion of an abacus to count our league goals scored and conceded so far this season.
And following the draw with Barnsley both columns once again contained binary digits. Although the end result was frustrating, on the positive side we have now only lost once in our last 14 home league matches and are in a mid-table position. We began the game well and controlled the opening exchanges despite missing both Ben Pearson and Daniel Johnson. Our goal came from Sean Maguire, a player who has been dubbed the Irish Diego Costa by a small section of our fans and he showed he also had the predatory strikers instinct similar to that of the Chelsea forward when he finished off a fine move and headed us in front midway through the first half. The Irishman was awarded the man of the match by the sponsors a view I shared as he was a constant pest to the Barnsley defence throughout the game. The lead was short-lived when we conceded only our second goal in six league matches a couple of minutes later. In the second half we lost our shape a little but still looked the side most likely to score and in the closing stages, following the introduction of Robinson and Harrop we had the Yorkshiremen largely on the back foot. The referee added on just the bog-standard four minutes of injury time despite the persistent time wasting of our opponents who had mastered it to a fine art. We now move on to what, on paper, are another batch of tough games for Alex Neil and his young side before the next international break. But if we can pick up some points and then get some of our key players back in near future who knows what could be achieved by the end of next May.
A frustrating afternoon for the home faithful as North End had to settle for a 1-1 draw against Barnsley on an day when we really should have had all three points. The absence of Johnson and Pearson in the engine room was probably the deciding factor in North End only claiming a point. Nevertheless there were many positives from the game, not least of which was the first league goal for Sean Maguire in a North End shirt and I genuinely believe there is so much more to come from the man from Cork. Barnsley where dangerous on the counter attack but really gave Maxwell little to do. We started with our usual 4-2-3-1 with Paul Gallagher and Alan Browne being the unusual holding midfield pairing with Mavididi playing on the right of the three behind Jordan Hugill. I thought the lad on loan from Arsenal did okay in the first period but clearly he needs some games to come to terms with the pace of the game in the Championship, which is much quicker, I would suggest, than playing for the England Under-20s. No after-effects from Jordan Hugill following his transfer saga last week. But it was the home side’s man of the match that put North End into the lead after about 25 minutes when Maguire steered a beautiful header past the Barnsley keeper following a pinpoint cross from Barkhuizen on the left. Unfortunately the lead only lasted a couple of minutes as a clearance from Fisher ricocheted off the incoming Potts into the net and the Tykes were level with their first serious effort on goal. The game was freeflowing at this point but North End couldn’t reclaim their lead. So it wasn’t to be the win that North End fans were looking for but we are still in the top half of the division which, I suspect, not many people thought we would be after the first six games. North End have a great chance to put it right against high-flying Cardiff on Tuesday evening and if we get Pearson or Johnson back then that would be a bonus. Another disappointing crowd I thought with only 12,813 coming through the turnstiles with a sizeable contingent from Barnsley. I would have taken four points from the two home games to be honest as Cardiff look to be going very well so let’s hope PNE can return to winning ways on Tuesday night.
Despite North End not being on their best form, this was a frustrating afternoon that me with an after-match feeling of two points dropped. Injuries had forced manager Alex Neil to make late changes and the two players concerned were missed, with the hosts lacking a bit of bite in the engine room. This is not to say that the replacements played badly, with the welcome return of Paul Gallagher in midfield joining a developing Stephy Mavididi, showing some pace on the right wing. A shame really that John Welsh was probably not match-fit enough to plug the ‘bite’ gap from the start, although he did get a big cheer when coming on as a second-half substitute. Preston took the lead in the 23rd minute after some good build-up play on the left wing by Tom Barkhuizen led to a cross that was neatly headed into the bottom right hand corner by Sean Maguire. It was just reward for his first goal in English football, with him being a shade unlucky in previous matches. However, the gloss was soon taken off only three minutes later as the hosts failed to keep pace with a fast Barnsley counter-attack and whipped-in cross that was somehow bundled into the net by Brad Potts, despite Darnell Fisher appearing to make contact with the ball in the six-yard area for what briefly looked like a decent clearance. Shortly after, Maguire had a good opportunity to put Mavididi through on goal, but a poor decision to strike himself was easily blocked by a Barnsley defender. The men in white continued to press in the second half and positive substitutions were tried in a bid to get over the line. More chances were created, including a reflex save by the visiting keeper Davies, from a powerful Paul Huntington header following a corner. In the dying minutes of the game Davies again came to Barnsley’s rescue, tipping a Maguire strike over the crossbar.