Preston supporters have their say on North End's 2-2 draw with Stoke at Deepdale
This was one of those games where at the end of the game I wasn't quite sure whether I was happy with a draw or not.
The 14,000 inside Deepdale and those watching onTV certainly got their monies worth from an entertaining encounter and a game full of commitment and endeavour.
The first half was probably the better in terms of the football played as the game got a little scrappy after the break but all in all I think both managers were satisfied with the result particularly Alex Neil when you look at the comparative cost of the two squads.
Four goals and plenty of incident gave the post match analysis plenty to discuss but in the big scheme of the season I don’t think that this was a particularly bad result for North End.The early part of the game belonged to the visitors with Rudd making an absolutely world class save early in the game. North End started to get a grip of things and I thought we gave Stoke much less respect than we gave Swansea last week and our game was better for it.
The midfield battle was a real intriguing affair with Joe Allen and Ben Pearson dominating things for their relevant sides although Paul Gallagher was very lucky to stay on the field after an elbow on Allen was missed by referee Madley. North End took the lead five minutes from the break when a handball was spotted in the box and Gally made no mistake firing the penalty past Butland.
The lead lasted just two minutes as Pieters fired an unstoppable shop past Rudd as North End were caught napping with a cross from the right. Into the fifth minute of added time and Graham Burke put North End back in front after a sliced shot from Robinson fell nicely onto Burke’s left foot and he made no mistake from close range.
After the break the visitors tried to up the tempo but I thought North End’s pressing and closing down on the day was as good as I have seen it for a long time. Such was our tenacity that Gary Rowett reverted to route one, as opposed to the beautiful game, and introduced Peter Crouch into the action.
Unfortunately for North End the plan worked when a free kick from the right somehow hit the back of the tall strikers head and went into the net. To be fair we handled the threat quite well after the equaliser but with both teams using all three subs there appeared to be no way through for a winner and I got the impression that both dug outs had declared with 10 minutes to go and were happy with the point that was in the bag.
Much comment on social media after the game with less than 11,000 home fans through the turnstiles although having said that I thought the atmosphere at the game was quite good and it was certainly one of those games to get the pulses racing particularly in the first half. Stoke had plenty of money on the field but North End matched them in every area and I am certain that if we keep on playing at this standard and this level of intensity then the results will undoubtedly come in the weeks and months to follow.
I thought Pearson was outstanding for North End on the day and Graham Burke showed that is more than comfortable at Championship level with a polished performance and a very well taken goal. A slightly disappointing result but a very encouraging performance.
For the second consecutive Saturday we were pitted against a team newly relegated from the Premier League.
Overall we acquited ourselves well against a Stoke side who had undoubted quality but were struggling slightly to adjust to the rigours of Championship football.We fully deserved our hard earned point in what was for a change an entertaining spectacle as opposed to some recent dour encounters for the visiting Sky TV cameras.
Last time Stoke won at Deepdale in 2005 the only goal of the game was scored by a certain Paul Gallagher and the same player fired us into the lead from the penalty spot to open the scoring before Stoke went upfield and immediately replied.We scored at a great time with almost the last kick of the half when Graham Burke who looks a great acquisition finished with aplomb in volleying home his first Preston league goal.
However we were unable to hold onto the lead in a second half in which we tended to operate on the counter attack whilst trying to soak up the pressure our opponents put us under and despite finishing strong we had to settle for a point.Our talisman Ben Pearson was sporting a stylish short cut beard which would not have looked out of place at the National British Beard and Moustache Championships which were being held over the weekend at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.
However fortunately for us he was on the pitch at Deepdale displaying some stylish passing and his normal tenacious tackling in collecting another man of the match award.He was run close by the centre back pairing of Ben Davies and Tom Clarke who both put in accomplished performances while Andrew Hughes also turned in another fine display at left back.
A game full of incident against the high spending visitors from the Potteries ended in a draw that I felt left us, the home fans, a bit disappointed.
Twice we led and twice we were pegged back and yet when considering the Premier League experience in the Stoke team maybe this is the point when we can be confident of having enough strength in depth to realistically push for the play-offs.
With 43 games to go that maybe wishful thinking, but I can’t remember a stronger squad since, arguably, the one assembled by Craig Brown and managed (in the main) by Billy Davies. As always time will tell, but this fan at least is excited about the season ahead.
The match itself was typical Championship hustle and bustle with North End scoring both their goals in the first half, the second being the final kick of added time by the impressive Graham Burke following a scuffed shot come-cross from Callum Robinson; another player who performed well overall.
The quality of Stoke was clear early doors as their left hand side gave Tom Clarke in particular a bit of a torrid time. It has to be said though that the wily and experienced Captain got the measure of his opponents as the game wore on.
A clear hand ball and subsequent penalty opened the scoring, with Paul Gallagher smashing it home following his trademark back to goal run and turn. Such a pity then that Preston were quickly caught out by a very well struck equaliser following the defence being stretched and unable to cover that dangerous Stoke left wing. Before kick-off, a number of my friends had predicted that if Peter Crouch came on for the visitors it was almost inevitable he would score.
Unfortunately that proved to be true, as he lost his marker and used the back of his head to score following a free kick given away by Darnell Fisher. Alex Neil thought he had got lucky, but later replays showed it was a deliberate effort reflecting the guile of a veteran player.
In the closing stages Neil tried to freshen the front line-up with Louis Moult replacing Lukas Nmecha. Moult played well and I also have no doubt that Nmecha will adapt to first team football given more time. A final mention must go to Ben Pearson, for me the man of the match, and no doubt a key player as the season progresses.