Match report: PNE 0 Norwich City 0

Ben Pearson takes on Norwich's Dennis Srbeny
Ben Pearson takes on Norwich's Dennis Srbeny

Preston North End couldn't find a way past a stubborn Norwich City side and were forced to settle for a goalless draw at Deepdale.

It was their first stalemate since Boxing Day and came just at the wrong time as they looked for a victory to keep them right up there in the play-off pack.

PNE skipper Tom Clarke tussles with Dennis Srbeny

PNE skipper Tom Clarke tussles with Dennis Srbeny

They threw everything at it and had the chances to win, Paul Gallagher hitting the bar with a free-kick in the first half.

Two opportunities were squandered in quick succession during the second period, Billy Bodin curling a shot wide after being found by a Callum Robinson cross, then substitute Sean Maguire headed over the bar from close range.

Before that, Josh Harrop had been denied by a great challenge in the box by Jamal Lewis after breaking into the box.

Lilywhites boss Alex Neil had made early substitutions to chase the three points, Maguire and Harrop joining the action eight minutes into the second half to follow the enforced change made at the break when Ben Davies replaced the injured Paul Huntington.

The draw saw them drop to ninth place, two points behind sixth-place Millwall.

North End can still make the play-offs but it isn't in their hands with two games left, the next one being at Sheffield United.

Neil had made just the one change from the side which won at QPR last week, Gallagher in for Daniel Johnson in the midfield.

The hosts were on the front foot from the start, Bodin intercepting a clearance out of the Norwich defence and moving into space down the right channel.

He cut inside but saw his cross clip a defender and loop into the gloves of keeper Angus Gunn.

A shot from Gallagher on the edge of the box hit his team-mate Tom Barkhuizen and bounced behind.

Ben Pearson put in a timely sliding block at the other end to charge down a James Maddison shot, while Josh Murphy fired high over the bar for the visitors.

The best chance of the first period fell PNE's way in the 29th minute when Bodin's run was halted by Grant Hanley's foul two yards outside the box, the Norwich defender shown a yellow card.

Gallagher got the free-kick over the wall and past Gunn but it bounced against the bar.

Two minutes before the interval, Bodin came inside off the right-wing on to his left foot but his low shot lacked power and went straight at the keeper.

North End were forced into a change at half-time, Davies replacing Huntington who had needed treatment in the first half after jarring his leg.

Two minutes into the second half, Darnell Fisher made a powerful run through the middle before feeding the ball out to Robinson who got down the left side of the box but put too much power on his centre which travelled across the six-yard box without anyone getting a touch.

Neil looked to burst the game open with a double change in the 53rd minute, bringing on Maguire and Harrop in place of Gallagher and Barkhuizen.

Both subs were involved as North End almost found a way through on the counter-attack.

Harrop broke up a Norwich attack and fed a pass to Bodin who played in Maguire.

The Irishman surged into the box, passed to Harrop who was denied by a great tackle by Jamal Lewis as he shaped to shoot.

With all the subs used, skipper Tom Clarke had to soldier on with a bandaged right leg after landing awkwardly when trying to meet a free-kick in the Norwich box.

Three good chances came North End's way in the space of four minutes as the clock ticked on.

Harrop's shot from 20 yards was parried by Gunn diving to his left in the 74th minute, but the best two came in quick succession after that.

Robinson got down the left and put over a cross which missed Harrop but fell to Bodin inside the box.

Bodin worked the ball on to his left foot but curled a shot wide of the far post when he should at least have got it on target.

Another Robinson cross in the 78th minute found Maguire seven yards out but the Irishman sent a header over the bar,

North End piled on the pressure but frustratingly couldn't find a way through.

PNE: Rudd, Fisher, Clarke, Huntington (Davies 46), Cunningham, Pearson, Gallagher, (Harrop 54) Bodin, Browne, Barkhuizen (Maguire 54), Robinson. Subs (not used): Johnson, Moult, Earl, Maxwell.

Norwich: Gunn, Reed, Hanley, Klose, Lewis, Tettey, Vrancic, Maddison, Leitner (Hernandez 77), Murphy (Pinto 90), Srbeny (Oliveira 73). Subs (not used): Husband, Hoolahan, Raggett, McGovern.

Referee: Geoff Eltringham (County Durham).

Attendance: 13,038 (697 away)