Preston North End had to settle for a point against Bristol City on Saturday.
Daniel Johnson’s goal was cancelled out by Famara Diedhiou as the Lilywhites made it nine unbeaten but failed to close the gap to the play-off places.
Below we take a look at the main talking points.
Things are getting crowded in play-off race
On paper this doesn’t look a bad point for North End but given the wider context of the play-off race, PNE fans will have left Deepdale frustrated. Having taken the lead just before half-time through Daniel Johnson the Lilywhites were three points from the top six. Come the final whistle the gap was as it was at the start of play, six, with PNE in fact dropping two places to 12th. It’s all getting mighty crowded among the chasing pack and North End are in there which is an achievement in itself given how the season started. It’s nine games unbeaten ahead of the trip to Blackburn next Saturday and moving that record into double figures with a derby win would do just nicely.
No Pearo, no party? Ryan Ledson would like to think not
As expected it was Ryan Ledson who was given a chance in the middle of midfield with Ben Pearson suspended. Ledson was well, Ledson, the former Oxford man putting in an all-action display in front of the back four. He was in the faces of the Robins and came up with some key blocks and interceptions, one challenge on halfway so firm the ball went out for a goal kick. This was also going to be a season of development for the scouser and so it has proved. But the signs are good and as Alex Neil indicated pre-match, Ledson is simply unlucky that Ben Pearson plays in the same position as him.
Hughes goes from strength to strength
After a goal at Millwall, Andrew Hughes gave another display that showed why he has made the left-back position his own. Having gone back and forth during the season with Josh Earl, the Welshman has nailed down his spot during an excellent start to 2019. Here he did everything you would expect of a modern left back. He stuck to his defensive task, Hughes’ bread and butter, but then also bombed on when the chance allowed, one interception and break forwards late on summing up a strong afternoon. Earl’s time will likely come but Hughes is at the top of his game at the moment.
Everyone loves a well-worked set piece
PNE’s opener came via a free-kick routine that was straight from a Springfields training drill. After Alan Browne had been hacked down by Lloyd Kelly, the Bristol City man booked, Paul Gallagher slid the ball across the face of the area for Daniel Johnson to hammer home first-time. It was a sweet strike from DJ, flying into the top corner at a key time in the game. For a player that prides himself on set piece perfection, Gallagher will have been particularly pleased with a set-up that deceived the Robins who were expecting an in-swinging delivery under the crossbar. His pass was perfectly weighted with Johnson doing the rest on his return to the side.
Robins’ wait for a win goes on
Everyone kept quiet about PNE’s record against Bristol City for fear of jinxing it. But at 5pm on Saturday afternoon the unbeaten run stood at 12 games. Lee Johnson’s reaction post-match, calling it an ‘outstanding point’, told you all you needed to know about how delighted he was to going home with something from Deepdale. As for the old boys, As for the old boys, Josh Brownhill’s importance to the Robins is clear, the former Lilywhite in the thick of things in midfield, while Bailey Wright had to watch from the bench on his third time back as a frustrating campaign for the Australian goes on.