Preston North End Fans’ Panel: John Roper’s verdict on draw with Leeds United
North End took the lead with just a quarter of an hour to go but the visitors equalised with just three minutes left on the clock.
PNE had been forced to defend more than you would expect from a home side as Leeds pressed and played some attractive flowing football.
However in the last quarter of the game it was North End who looked the more likely and when Tom Barkhuizen gave us the lead the chance was there to take all three points in front of a crowd of 18,275 inside Deepdale.
Preston are just seeming to lack that one key player at the moment that can unlock a defence and unlock a game but all credit to the boys on this display for their hard work and endeavour in keeping one of the best teams in the league quiet for almost all of the game.
The game started as quickly as I have seen any game start this season and Preston had to be in top gear to repel the counter attacks that Leeds employed early on in proceedings.
Both teams had a couple of half-chances early on but it was the visitors who were having most of the ball as North End were just being edged out in midfield and being forced to play a lot deeper than they would have liked.
Having said that I thought we kept our shape and our organisation well and the Leeds keeper had to make a last-ditch clearance to take the ball away from the feet of David Nugent.
At the other end, Leeds were getting plenty of corners and Bamford twice had clear headers but couldn’t get his efforts on goal.
No doubt that North End were the more relieved to hear the half time whistle as it had been a forty five minutes of non stop action if not of top class quality football.
After the break Leeds started quickly once again but as the half panned out things were much more even and Preston were starting to get some forward pressure on to the visiting defence as Leeds started to run out of ideas.
Alex Neil made three changes from the team beaten at Reading and with 20 minutes to go he changed it again by replacing the burned-out Nugent with a very fresh looking Sean Maguire at centre-forward.
The changed worked almost immediately as Alan Browne played a lovely pass down the right flank and Maguire accelerated onto the ball and into the Leeds box.
A quick look up saw Barkhuizen steaming in at the back post and Maguires cross found the ex-Morecambe man after taking a slight deflection, and Barkhuizen made no mistake to send the home fans into raptures.
Once again, though, North End were made to pay near the end and with just three minutes to go Leeds equalised through Nketiah, who headed home after a poorly conceded free-kick had failed to be cleared properly by the North End defence.
It was tough on PNE but was probably the right result on the ninety minutes and I think both managers would be reasonably pleased with the outcome.
It was very important for North End not to lose again after their defeat at Reading on Saturday and I think this was Alex Neil’s first intention with the way he set up the teams and the tactics Preston adopted.
Leeds are no mugs and North End should take great heart from this performance and realise that we should be afraid of no one in the Championship as we seek to keep up with the pacesetters in the division.
I thought the team worked hard and generally played well but the man of the match, for me anyway, was Ben Davies, who simply never panics at the back whatever the situation and whatever the opposition.
So it’s onwards and upwards as Deepdale gears itself up for the second big game in four days when Blackburn are the visitors on Saturday.