Five talking points from Preston North End's draw with Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park

The derby clash at Ewood Park between Blackburn Rovers and Preston North End wasn’t the classic which was hoped for.

Sunday, 12th January 2020, 6:00 am
Preston manager Alex Neil and Blackburn boss Tony Mowbray appeal in unison for a decision at Ewood Park

It was competitive but in entertainment terms fell rather flat with honours even in a 1-1 draw in the rain.

Here are five of the talking points from the trip up the M65.

1. Josh Harrop is developing an eye for goal, his equaliser against Rovers being the midfielder’s seventh goal of the season.

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Josh Harrop scored PNE's equaliser against Blackburn at Ewood Park

Four of those have been in the Championship, two came in the Carabao Cup and one in last week’s FA Cup loss to Norwich City.

His goal per start ratio is pretty good when you bear in mind the Blackburn game was only his 10th in the starting XI.

Harrop operated off the left side of the attack in the visit to Ewood, a role which Alex Neil favours him in.

Saturday’s goal was scored from a central position though, the former Manchester United man firing home superbly from the edge of the box after Ben Davies had headed down a free-kick into his path.

Preston striker Sean Maguire takes on Tosin Adarabioyo

Harrop is also a candidate to play in the No.10 role but Neil prefers either the power of Alan Browne there or Daniel Johnson’s craft and cleverness.

What Harrop will be hoping for is a run of starts, something which has tended to evade him at PNE.

2. Tom Clarke’s selection at right-back instead of Darnell Fisher caught many of us off guard.

It was a misplaced pass from the skipper which set the ball rolling for Rovers’ early goal, while he also missed the chance to clear it once the ball had come into the box.

PNE skipper Tom Clarke grapples with Adam Armstrong

That sequence added fuel to the fire for Clarke’s critics and it wasn’t his finest hour.

However, late in the goal it was a fine clearing header by Clarke at the far post which prevented Danny Graham scoring a winner.

Clarke had done well at right-back against Cardiff and Leeds, that probably in Neil’s mind.

Fisher he felt had looked jaded in the last couple of games since coming back into the side.

Scott Sinclair gets instructions from Alex Neil before being introduced for his Preston debut against Blackburn

Who Neil plays in the next game against Charlton will be interesting.

3. Sean Maguire looks to be short of confidence but has the trust of his manager, no doubt due to his work rate.

The Irishman started up front against Rovers and later switched out wide.

He worked hard across the front but in terms of sights of goal there was little for him on this occasion.

There was little quality service up to Maguire to be fair but he needs a goal to lift the weight off his shoulders.

For the last half hour, Jayden Stockley came on to lead the line, bringing a more physical approach up front.

4. Scott Sinclair’s bow in a Preston shirt was a brief one, the winger joining the fray in the 80th minute.

Neil decided against putting him in from the start, taking into consideration he had played just one game in three months for Celtic.

Naturally, the North End fans were keen to see the high profile signing in action and showed their support to him from the off.

There was a chorus before kick-off of the song Celtic supporters used to sing to him and that tune was repeated at regular events throughout the afternoon.

Without doubt, this signing has caught the imagination.

A full week’s training could lead to a much longer run-out against Charlton at Deepdale.

5. While there was an element of disappointment about the performance, PNE continue to have the sign over Blackburn.

This was a seventh game unbeaten against Rovers since 2016, Blackburn last beating North End in November 2015.

Another bumper following made the trip to East Lancashire, with 6,276 packed in the Darwen End.

Around 4,500 of those fans had only bought their tickets in the week leading up to the game after the stand-off with Rovers over the selling of upper tier seats first.

I'd wager the following would have been even bigger had common sense prevailed from the start and PNE been allowed to sell both top and bottom tiers at the same time.