PNE paying the penalty

Surprised: PNE manager Graham Westley
Surprised: PNE manager Graham Westley
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Graham Westley felt it was ‘bizarre’ that Preston North End’s long run without being awarded a penalty didn’t end in their weekend draw with Tranmere.

The Lilywhites had two big appeals for penalties in the 1-1 draw at Prenton Park but neither persuaded referee Phil Gibbs to point to the spot.

In the first instance, Stuart Beavon was clattered by Rovers keeper Owain Fon Williams, the striker needing lengthy treatment to bandage up a cut head.

A few minutes later, a Beavon header was on its way into the net until home skipper James Wallace appeared to handle it on the line.

North End were last awarded a penalty in competitive action against Brentford at Deepdale in March, and have played 27 games since.

Westley was measured in his post-match thoughts, at pains to point out that decisions were made honestly by officials.

But there is a growing sense of frustration on the part of the PNE manager that his side have gone so long without being awarded a penalty.

“Stuart Beavon had his head kicked-off and in another area of the pitch, a foul would have been given,” said Westley.

“I don’t know why goalkeepers get licence to kick people in the head in the penalty area.

“The second was a stonewall penalty and they could have gone down to 10 men.

“I’m certainly not pointing fingers at officials because they make honest decisions, which sometimes they get right and sometimes they don’t.

“It’s an interesting statistic about the time it has been since we were last given a penalty.

“Sometimes big clubs have things go against them because the fans make such a noise and referees feel obliged to stand-up to the fan base. They show they can make a decision, maybe there is that aspect.

“It’s bizarre we didn’t get a penalty on Saturday because most people in the ground wouldn’t have complained if they they were given, whether they were a Tranmere or Preston fan.”

PNE’s goalscorer Paul Huntington had a close-up view of the second appeal when Beavon’s header was blocked.

The centre-half said: “It was a clear handball, I’d hooked the ball back in for Stuart Beavon and he headed it.

“There was a deliberate movement of the lad’s arm, and I had a word with the referee to look at it again.”

On the pitch, North End had brushed aside the sense of injustice from the two rejected appeals to take the lead five minutes into the second half through Huntington.

His close-range header after a Jeffrey Monakana cross had bounced against the bar looked to have secured PNE only their second ever league win at Prenton Park.

But Jake Cassidy, on loan from Wolves, fired home an 85th minute equaliser to grab a share of the spoils.

While frustrated to have conceded late on, Westley felt his side had bossed the game against the League One leaders.

He said: “With the number of chances we had, we could have won the match much more convincingly.

“If you are not ruthless enough you can play the price as happened with Tranmere’s equaliser. But we can take a lot of confidence from going to the league leaders and dominating the game.

“There is still a sense of learning and we didn’t show enough ruthlessness to kill the game off.”

North End skipper John Welsh, who was facing his former club, picked up a fifth yellow card of the season in stoppage-time.

That triggered a one-match suspension and the midfielder will miss the FA Cup tie against Yeovil on Saturday.