Dave Seddon's match verdict: Preston North End 1 Leeds United 1 - A tactical arm wrestle between Alex Neil and Marcelo Bielsa

You will find there is a good level of respect between most managers and head coaches but there appears to be that little bit more when Preston boss Alex Neil and his Leeds counterpart Marcelo Bielsa stand in the technical area.

Wednesday, 23rd October 2019, 3:13 am
Tom Barkhuizen is congratulated by Joe Rafferty and Paul Gallagher after scoring for Preston against Leeds United at Deepdale

The pair are different in many ways – age, nationality, Neil a bundle on energy and aggression on the touchline while Bielsa perches on an upturned blue bucket.

Bielsa has a school master look, his glasses dangling from a string around his neck.

Both are tracksuit bosses, Neil in his grey Preston issue and Bielsa never out of his Leeds threads – he turned up for his club’s centenary dinner last week in it when everyone else was in black tie.

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Marcelo Bielsa and Alex Neil shake hands at Deepdale

On Tuesday night they had a tactical arm-wrestle under the lights at Deepdale, their sides serving-up a more than decent clash from which the spoils were shared.

Both Neil and Bielsa had grounds for thinking they might have had more.

Neil will have rued the fact North End took the lead but couldn’t hold on to it.

As for Bielsa, he saw his side have the game’s clearer chances but at the same time they needed a late equaliser to take a point back over the Pennines to West Yorkshire.

Tom Barkhuizen celebrates his goal

So perhaps this was an occasion when a point was a fair outcome.

Neil likes Bielsa’s approach to the game, Bielsa likewise with Neil.

Last season, Neil earned the Argentine’s respect when Preston won 2-0 at Elland Road in the League Cup.

Leeds went on to do the double over PNE in the Championship but the respect remained. So there were warm words from Neil as he reflected on this 1-1 draw, a result not to be sniffed at.

Preston striker David Nugent and Leeds goalkeeper Kiko Casilla share a joke

“I really enjoyed that and I was really pleased with how things went,” said Neil.

“First of all I was pleased not to get beat.

“When you pit your wits against someone as experienced as him who has done what he has done in the game, it’s nice to get a result.

“I wouldn’t say we came out on top but we showed we have an understanding of the game, we showed how we could stop them and affect it.

Eddie Nketiah loops a header over Preston goalkeeper Declan Rudd

“Credit to our lads, they had to do it out there. I thought we had two very well coached teams playing out there.”

From PNE’s perspective, I would wager this fell into the point gained category.

Indeed they did lead for 13 minutes so understandably there was some frustration that Neil’s lads didn’t hold out.

But it was important they didn’t lose it, hosting Leeds coming on the back on the 1-0 defeat at Reading.

At half-time most of a North End persuasion would have taken a point.

In the first half Leeds had looked the more threatening and wasted a few chances, in particular at set-pieces.

Not that the hosts didn’t get up the pitch, Kiko Casilla twice having to turn himself into a sweeper keeper on the edge of his box and beyond to thwart David Nugent.

But in that first 45 minutes you got the sense that Leeds looked the more likely side to get on the scoresheet.

Moving into the second half you had a much better feeling about Preston though.

That feeling was justified when Tom Barkhuizen put them in front in the 74th minute, turning in a cross from Sean Maguire.

Twice they had chances to double that lead, put the ‘game over’ sign up.

When those chances were not taken, back came Leeds to equalise in the 87th minute through sub Eddie Nketiah.

That leveller came in the aftermath of a set-piece, that a bit of a weak spot which Neil will be keen to sort out.

North End’s goal came on the counter-attack. Alan Browne, back playing in the No.10 role, got the ball in his own half in the right-back position.

He played it down the line to Maguire who was on as a substitute for Nugent.

Maguire got behind the Leeds defence and sent over a low ball which caught Ben White’s boot and sat up rather nicely for Barkhuizen to side-foot home.

The Leeds equaliser came after Kalvin Phillips’ free-kick was blocked by the wall, with a second Leeds effort also blocked.

When the ball broke across to the left side of the box, Jack Harrison lifted it back over to the far post for Nketiah to hang in the air and loop home a header over Declan Rudd.

Patrick Bauer did his best to hook it off the line but could only help it further into the roof of the net.

Brad Potts was inches away from restoring PNE's lead in stoppage-time, then hearts were in mouths as Tyler Roberts went down in the opposite box under a challenge from Ben Pearson.

'Play on' was the signal from referee Kevin Friend and replays showed it was a correct decision.