Dave Seddon's match verdict: Swansea City 3 Preston North End 2 - still no joy on Swans' territory for PNE
Sir Tom Finney had only been retired from football for four months when Preston North End last won at Swansea.
Saturday was the 19th time in which North End returned from Glamorganshire without a victory.
It is a run spanning 58 years in visits to the Liberty Stadium and before that Vetch Field.
If ever there was a chance though for the Lilywhites to break that chain, it was this latest visit.
They bossed the first half, moved the ball with ease and held the lead for a long while through Joe Rafferty’s early opener – the most unlikely of scorers you would think.
Alex Neil was impressed sufficiently to call the first 45 minutes ‘as good as we have played away from home’.
I presume that covered his two years in charge rather than just the opening couple of weeks of this season.
The turning point in this one which turned potential victory into defeat came in the fourth minute of stoppage time at the end of the first half.
Swansea levelled against the run of play with their first effort on target and from then on it was the home side in the ascendancy.
Cruelly, the additional time at the end of the first half was because of a serious injury suffered by Louis Moult.
His leg buckled under him as he moved to chase a ball into the box and you knew the PNE striker was in trouble from the moment he stayed down and a Swansea player signalled to the bench for assistance.
With the equaliser in the bag, the game suited the hosts more than it did Neil’s men.
They went in front but still Preston found a way back to level from the penalty spot and make it 2-2.
However, the prospect of bringing a point back was quickly taken from them as Swansea regained the lead just two minutes later.
Mind you, two efforts right on the final whistle had PNE close to sharing the spoils.
For the 412 travelling fans, the first half had been a joy to watch in the sun – a rare sight itself during a wet few weeks.
Neil reverted to 10 of the side which had seen off Wigan so well the week before, although that meant disappointing those who had won the League Cup game at Bradford so convincingly.
Rafferty was the one player to start both, Andrew Hughes’ damaged hamstring forcing him to sit out the visit back to his country of birth.
Preston’s control of the first half was such that once they had blocked a free-kick from Bersant Celina with two minutes on the clock, they were untroubled until the hosts pulled level.
Chances came and went to add to the lead and had they taken one of them, it would have been game over.
That left Swansea off the hook and with the opportunity to claw their way back. At some point the home side were always going to have a good patch.
If transfer fees relate into quality on the pitch, the Swans had some big-hitters to call on.
Borja Baston who scored two of their goals was a £15.5m signing from Atlético Madrid in 2016 but has spent the last two seasons back in Spain on loan with Malaga and Alaves.
In Andre Ayew, an early substitute for Nathan Dyer, they had an £18m buy. Like Baston, he was out on loan last season, but is back to swell the ranks.
As North End prepare for a run of three home games, how have things sized-up over the first fortnight?
A win at Deepdale and two defeats on their travels in the Championship, coupled with the victory at Bradford in the League Cup. It’s a mixed bag, offering both promise and concern.
What they served-up in the games with Wigan, Bradford and the first-half on Saturday, was decent to say the least.
At Millwall they were blunt up front, a problem which nine goals since seems to have bene worked on.
The issue in South Wales came at the back as three goals were shipped, all from moves down the side of the defence.
The ball was played in from Swansea’s right-wing for the first goal, their second two both coming down the other side – the hosts’ No.10 Celina allowed to get behind to put over crosses to set them up.
Murphy’s Law dictated that two early-season injuries have come in positions where PNE looked short.
Moult’s injury which we can assume will be lengthy, comes on top of David Nugent being out for a few more weeks with a calf strain.
Hughes missing meant the use of Rafferty at left-back, that a short-term measure it is hoped.
Rafferty did fine in this one although in the longer term you want round pegs in round holes.
He took the pressure off himself a little by scoring PNE’s 11th minute opener.
Intercepting a clearance from Swansea’s defence down the channel, Rafferty chested it forward, came in field and hit a right-foot shot from more than 20 yards which beat the dive of Freddie Woodman at the near post.
It was the Liverpudlian’s first goal in PNE colours and only the sixth of his career.
Chances came for Preston both before and after Moult’s departure on a stretcher.
Daniel Johnson drilled a low shot wide, Billy Bodin’s curler had Woodman diving to save, while Sean Maguire twice went close – first with a header which flew just over and then a low shot which went beyond the far post.
Swansea’s equaliser was the sucker-punch, Jay Fulton having time in midfield to feed a pass out to Connor Roberts.
The right-back’s cross fell to Baston who scuffed a shot across goal into the far corner.
Preston fell behind in the 63rd minute, Celina’s cross challenged for by Baston and Ben Davies. The ball broke to substitute George Byers who fired home from 12 yards.
Back came the visitors four minutes later, with Maguire flattened by Roberts as they jumped to meet Green’s flick from a Darnell Fisher cross.
Johnson did the honours from the penalty spot with a low finish to the keeper’s right.
The back door was left ajar though, two minutes later.
Bersant’s pass sent Jake Bidwell to the byline, his cross met by Baston who headed in from six yards.