John Roper’s Preston North End Fans’ Panel verdict: Same again in 2020 and it’ll be the play-offs!

Sean Maguire goes for goal at Cardiff
Sean Maguire goes for goal at Cardiff

This was one of those games that before kick-off you would have probably taken a point.

But at the end of 90 minutes it was almost like two points had been lost. PNE looked the team most likely throughout the game to take all three points but some poor finishing particularly from Sean Maguire saw us settling for a point in this 0-0 draw. These early games can often produce poor quality affairs although I thought the game was decent enough and, to be honest, I would have expected the neutral to have disappointed with Cardiff as they were somewhat of a form team going into the game.

We were first to the majority of the loose balls in the middle of the park and I thought man of the match, Ben Pearson, particularly dominated play in the midfield.

The very experienced back four looked solid all afternoon as Cardiff reverted to the long-ball towards the end of the game.

If I were to have any criticism of the performance on the day it was the quality of the ball into the opposition area from set-pieces and, of course, this was the fourth consecutive away game in which we have failed to score.

North End started the game with two changes from the side that beat Luton at Deepdale a week ago. Skipper Tom Clarke came in at right-back for the suspended Darnell Fisher and Tom Barkhuizen played at centre-forward with David Nugent reverting to the bench.

Preston started the game well with Bodin having an early shot just over the top.

The second half was very much played in a similar manner to the first with North End looking to be the team most likely to score. Gallagher had a curling shot over the bar as North End tried to find a way through but the general execution of our set-pieces from Gally was not up to its usual high standard.

Alan Browne collected a misplaced back pass but shot tamely at the Cardiff keep when really he should have done better.

Maguire broke through in the inside left position but once again chose to shoot when he may have been better to square the ball. So a satisfactory result for PNE but once again we failed to score away from Deepdale.

With a tough game at Leeds on Boxing Day, North End will have to make the most of the two home games that follow against Reading and Middlesbrough.

As thoughts turn to the transfer window my take on things is that we need another striker who can score goals (doesn’t everybody) and we need some cover at left-back for Andrew Hughes, who I thought was looking much more like his old self.

This of course makes the assumption that no players will be going the other way and as we lie in the play-off spots on Christmas Day surely North End will not make the mistake of not strengthening in January to give us the best possible chance of being in the top six come the end of the season.

We are at the halfway stage with 38 points. Double this to 76 and I think that will be enough.