Low attendance for visit of league leaders Fulham is a cause for concern, say Preston fan John Roper
A bitterly cold, sparsely populated Deepdale saw North End earn a very creditable draw against league leaders Fulham.
North End took a while to get into their stride against a Fulham side that is conservatively valued at 100m.
We struggled early on to match the Cottagers quick play and move football and were a goal down inside 15 minutes with a poorly defended goal scored by Fulham captain Tim Ream.
However, we did start to get into our stride and come the half hour mark we were taking the game to the visitors. After the break it was North End’s turn to up their game a little more and once again the introduction of Ched Evans proved to be the catalyst for a Preston revival.
The Welshman added some real grit and tenacity to the forward line and with just over a quarter of an hour left he bundled the ball home from a corner to give North End a share of the points and plenty of credibility in front of the Sky TV cameras.
Just one change for North End from the team that started at Middlesbrough on Tuesday evening with Liam Lindsay coming in for Patrick Bauer who was out with a knock. It looked ominous for North End when Mitrovic was named on the team sheet for Fulham but I have to say the Lindsay kept him quiet all afternoon in what was the ex-Stoke man’s best best performance for the club.
Fulham started the game quickly and North End struggled a little as the visitors, once again, got plenty of room down the flanks. Fulham took the lead after fifteen minutes when a free kick from the left found Ream in between the North End back line to put the visitors ahead.
There were only two real half chances for North End in the half through Riis and Whiteman but our general play was improving steadily as the half went on and North End finished the first forty five minutes one down but on top in the game.
No changes at half time for North End but we started much the brighter with the visitors lucky not to be down to ten men after an early foul on Barkhuizen by Robinson. It looked a straight Red but Mr Kavanagh deemed it just a foul and, this, from a Premiership referee.
Riis had a stinging shot saved by Rodak as Evans was introduced with ten minutes of the second half gone. North End then went up another gear dominating midfield and reducing Fulham to counter attacks.
North End deservedly drew level with 18 minutes left when a corner from the left found Evans right in amongst it and he bundled the ball home. There was a question of handball but it was very 50/50 and this time North End got the benefit of the doubt and the scores were even.
We certainly looked the more likely to win the game in the final stages as two chances went wide but this was a very good point, all things considered on a Baltic feeling afternoon at Deepdale.
So after the huge disappointment of last weeks reverse to Cardiff I doubt many would have predicted four points from the next two games but the boys have been out and done that. Those first three defeats and the run of draws are still costing us but 14 points from the last nine games is top 10 form in the Championship.
Whether Evans return is going to make a fundamental difference to our play and results remains to be seen but if North End can be more consistent then perhaps all is not lost.
I thought there were some really good performances from McCann, Evans and Whiteman on Saturday but my man of the match goes to Liam Lindsay as the sometimes maligned centre back put in an excellent display against the best striker in the division.
Unfortunately only 9,838 were inside Deepdale to witness the game and it must be of massive concern to the powers that be at Deepdale that only 8,952 Preston fans were in the Stadium. Something must be done to get those missing fans back.
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