JOHN ROPER: This very successful season finally came to an end with a 1-1 draw against Leeds United in front of a very decent 18,273 at Deepdale.
For much of the game North End looked the more likely but when Leeds took the lead from the penalty spot with a quarter of a an hour to go, it looked liked we were going to end the season on a low. Fortunately, Jordan Hugill levelled for North End, after some excellent work down the right-hand side, in the first minute of the additional three. The game was not the most fast-paced I have ever seen and for periods it did look like a friendly, with both sides seeming content with what they had got. But after Leeds took the lead the game opened up and I don’t think that anybody in the crowd could reasonably argue that a draw was not a fair result. North End started with a very flexible 3-5-2 formation with Callum Woods playing on the right of a back three and Reach and Vermijl playing as the wing-backs. Chances were few and far between in the opening quarter of the game but there was plenty of atmosphere inside Deepdale with the 5,464 Leeds fans enjoying their day out in the sun. The best chance for the visitors came when Wood managed to chip Chris Kirkland towards the end of the first half but, fortunately for North End, the ball went over the advancing Kirkland and over the bar. Right on the stroke of half time Garner played in Reach on the left but the return to Garner saw the header go wide of the post. The second half started at a better tempo and North End should have taken an early lead when Reach squared the ball for Beckford, who looked like he should have scored but, as the ball fell for Garner, it was saved by Silvestri. Kirkland had looked fairly solid all afternoon but with just 15 minutes to go, he conceded a soft penalty after bringing down Antenucci and Wood made no mistake. It was all Preston from then on but it looked like our chance had gone when Reach had the ball in the net only to be flagged offside. North End kept plugging away and finally got just reward in the 91st minute when Hugill held up the ball superbly and passed to Doyle, with the ball eventually coming back to Hugill, who level matters to the absolute delight of the North End fans. The club must keep up the momentum of the last three seasons and strive to move forward on and off the field. This season has been a superb season of consolidation in the Championship but the fans will expect and demand more when August comes.
JOHN SMITH: We signed off this season’s campaign with a home draw which gave us our highest league placing since finishing sixth in the Championship in 2009. A year ago this weekend we were at a low ebb, having lost to Colchester and some online forum posts even made the ludicrous suggestion that the manager should be replaced by John Dreyer for the Chesterfield game four days later. However he has silenced his minority of critics by, firstly, winning promotion and now making us the 31st best team in the land on current placings. The club appears to be heading in the right direction and being run better financially than our local rivals at Ewood Park and the team who play in the seaside town. We now have a good crop of younger players who have been together a while now and we have many reasons to be optimistic after consolidating our status in a new league this term. At the start of the season you could get odds of 5000/1 on Elvis being seen alive by the Sir Tom Finney statue or Leicester winning the Premier League, so maybe sometimes the improbable can happen and we can now dream again of joining the Premier League in the next five seasons and I, for one, will be renewing my season ticket with this hope. The game itself was mainly a sedate affair but it sparked into life in the last ten minutes. Leeds took the lead with a debatable penalty. Its conversion delighted the travelling hordes from over the Pennines. We had looked the more likely team to score,although the Leeds fans decked in their Hawaiian shirts had mastered the art of crowd surfing, which at times was more entertaining than the game. Following Jordan Hugill’s equalising goal deep into stoppage time, both sets of fans went home reasonably happy and along with the players they could now finally go off to don the flip flops after a satisfying campaign.
TIM MERCER: Yet again on Saturday, this Preston team showed the kind of never-say-die attitude that has served them so well this season and netted a late, but deserved, equaliser. A distinct “end of term” feeling was evident all around the ground with some decent and good-natured banter struck up between the home fans and the large away following from across the Pennines. Despite neither side creating many chances, it was a busy game that kept your attention with both sides well matched and effectively cancelling each other out. Hence, it was no real surprise to hear the half-time whistle blown with the scoreline stuck at 0-0. The second half was pretty similar, up to the point of a controversial penalty being awarded to Leeds as the game moved towards it final 10 minutes. From our clear viewpoint of Chris Kirkland’s admittedly clumsy challenge and clearance, it was definitely ball first and foremost, and should have been a Leeds corner. With the same view as our section of the crowd, the linesman also signalled for a corner but was immediately overruled by the referee, who gave a penalty. Whilst I can understand the way it looked to the man in the middle (from his angle) it was disappointing that he chose not to consult with his colleague, who remained silent despite protestations from the home players. Cue the injustice, cue the Preston fight back,. The pressure eventually told in stoppage time with sub Jordan Hugill getting his just rewards for a lively performance that continues to hint at the potential this young player may yet be able to realise. Let’s hope so, as the lack of cutting edge is probably the most important aspect of the team that now needs to be addressed if we are to make further progress next season.