Dave Seddon's match verdict on Preston North End's goalless draw with Derby County
The pattern of the game and the statistics point to the fact Preston North End should have won last night’s televised clash with Derby County at Deepdale.
But bearing in mind PNE’s rotten record against the Rams over the last few years, maybe this goalless draw was a point gained.
Derby had won their last four visits here and it is more than a decade ago that North End beat them home or away.
So at least the run of home defeats at the visitors’ hands is ended, although there remained a sense of frustration in the Lilywhites camp that it had not been halted by a victory.
They deserved to win this one, no argument.
Derby might have twice rattled the woodwork at the Alan Kelly Town End in the first period but those efforts from distance were about as good as it got for them.
Alex Neil’s side bossed the second half and hadn’t been too shoddy in the first either, save for a spell in the run-up to half-time.
That second 45 minutes saw a bagful of chances, ones which unfortunately could not be converted into goals.
There were no glaring misses or open goals squandered.
It was more a case of shots going too close to the goalkeeper or blocks being made.
Just beyond the hour mark, North End had three bites at the cherry in a matter of seconds as they peppered the Derby goal.
Paul Gallagher’s volley was saved by keeper Kelle Roos, with follow-up attempts from Brad Potts and Darnell Fisher blocked.
The Potts shot actually hit team-mate Alan Browne to add to the sense of frustration.
I’m sure that over the weekend North End will be rueful about this being one which got away.
But once the dust settles it can be looked at as a decent enough draw – and one which stretches the unbeaten run to four games.
Derby are pushing for the play-offs and North End are in mid-table but it was hard to differentiate which was which on this show.
The hosts had the game’s stand-out players on the night.
Ben Davies was excellent alongside Jordan Storey at the back and took the sponsors’ man of the match award.
Potts, Browne and Sean Maguire were all in the mix for the prize, Davies taking it by reason of a calm display at the back.
Sky Sports dished out their award to County skipper Richard Keogh.
That was testament to the amount of work he had to do at the heart of their defence.
Cross after cross had gone into the Derby box during the second half as PNE got on the front foot and stayed on it.
The cameras were there not for Preston but more as a nod to the top six ambitions of the visitors.
It was another episode of the Frank Lampard roadshow too, his name never far from the lips of the presenters and commentators.
Derby have been renamed this term, in the eyes of some they belong to Lampard and not simply managed by him.
He seems a decent enough fella and the word from those close to the Derby camp is that Lampard is perplexed by the media hype.
If Derby get to the play-offs it will be due to his hard work and the efforts of his squad, not the fact he had a stellar playing career with Chelsea and England.
Unchanged for a third game on the bounce, North End settled well.
Browne's shot which hit Jayden Stockley and flew over the target was their first sight of goal of the evening.
Harry Wilson shot which smacked against the bar in the 11th minute came something out of the blue and was to be a warning of the talents of the Liverpool loanee.
He hit the post later in the first half from a bit closer in, with PNE having their own chances in between.
Fortune may have shone on the hosts when Ben Pearson was booked by referee Darren Bond for a sliding lunge at Tom Lawrence in front of the dugouts.
The card colour could so easily have been red, a bullet dodged by the midfielder.
With Derby’s two shots against the woodwork and their decent finish to the first half balanced by some chances at the other end for North End, it could be debated that those first 45 minutes had the teams on equal footing.
There was no doubt that the second half belonged to Preston, helped by a tactical switch at the interval.
Gallagher was moved to the right-wing and Potts switched inside, roles they had done well in at QPR 13 days before.
Potts being central got him involved in the game a lot more and he carried a real threat as the game went on.
Maguire became more and more influential from the left side of the pitch, it being his cross which set-up that triple chance for PNE.
It was met by Gallagher on the volley, Roos getting the first block on.
Potts met the rebound and saw it hit Browne who could not get out of the way.
Then Fisher had a go, his shot blocked by a defender.
It was not the first time Fisher had joined the attack, a shot earlier in the second half saved by Roos’ left foot.
Late on, Maguire forced Roos into a diving save down to his left.
Derby threatened on the break in the closing stages but North End held firm – Davies and Storey excellent in their reading of the game.
A point apiece then, not quite what PNE wanted but not a disaster by any means.