Preston North End 1-1 Wolves: Five things we learned

Ben Davies battles with Benik Afobe on his return to the side.
Ben Davies battles with Benik Afobe on his return to the side.

PNE had a man sent off for the second week in succession as they battled for a point against the Championship leaders.

From Ben Davies’ return to another man of the match display from Alan Browne there were plenty of talking points from this full-blooded Deepdale clash.

Preston 'keeper Declan Rudd makes a save.

Preston 'keeper Declan Rudd makes a save.

This emerging group has no fear

All week in the build-up, all connected with North End talked about how they were going to take the game to the runaway Championship leaders. That turned out to be the case with Alex Neil’s men starting both halves on the front foot. In between Wolves finished the first period well and gave a warning of their class. But the home side’s best spell came after the interval and was rewarded with Alan Browne’s goal. Their intensity and work rate, a signature of Neil’s side more than anything else, made life really difficult for Wolves. They got a helping hand however with John Welsh’s red card and were soon level through Helder Costa. To PNE’s credit they stuck to their task and weren’t overly troubled in the closing stages.

Red cards could be costly

Neil said pre-match he was happy for his side to play “on the edge” as he put it and would take the rough with the smooth when it came to suspensions. With Ben Pearson and Greg Cunningham banned on Saturday, Welsh will now have to sit out the Villa game after this dismissal. The Scouser felt the need to apologise on social media for leaving his side a man light for the final half an hour. Neil’s frustration was that he had warned the midfielder at half-time about a second booking and was even considering a change. There’s not much in the foul on Ivan Cavaleiro but Welsh gave the Wolves man chance to go down and referee Robert Jones a decision to make. The high-intensity style is reaping rewards more often than not but the Lilywhites are certainly walking a tightrope at the moment.

Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo makes a point to his Preston counterpart Alex Neil.

Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo makes a point to his Preston counterpart Alex Neil.

Browne goes from strength-to-strength

It’s almost getting tedious writing about how much of a key player Alan Browne is turning into for PNE. Playing back in a more advanced role just off Callum Robinson, the midfielder was absolutely everywhere on Saturday and deservedly picked up a fifth goal of the season. After hitting the post with a deflected shot just before, the Irishman made no mistake with a back-post header from Robinson’s excellent corner. Having talked endlessly about his endeavour and energy that is now five for the season for Browne who is scoring a variety of goals. If he adds that on a consistent basis then North End have some player on their hands. It’s also worth remembering that despite all his first-team experience he is still only 22.

Davies a key part of the defence

Another rising star was back in the PNE defence on Saturday as Ben Davies came back from his hamstring injury and replaced Tommy Spurr. He made a couple of key blocks early on to serve as a reminder, if it was needed, of the qualities he possesses. Assured on the ball and an excellent reader of the game, his extra little bit of pace also means he compliments Paul Huntington perfectly at the back. The only blot of his day was that he potentially could have been firmer in the challenge on Costa before his goal but even then, the Portuguese winger was fortunate to see the ball rebound into his path before finishing well beyond Declan Rudd. Surely at some point Neil will have all his defensive options available and on that day, Davies won’t be one to miss out.

Wolves fans packed out the away end at Deepdale.

Wolves fans packed out the away end at Deepdale.

Deepdale suits big games

Pre-match there was plenty of talk about the 5,600 Wolves fans making the trip to Deepdale and they certainly played their part in what felt like a really big game. The PNE fans made their voices heard too though, a crowd of 18,570 surpassing the opening day win over Sheffield Wednesday as the biggest attendance of the season. Perhaps the most pleasing thing was that the performances of the players on the field and fans off it went hand-in-hand. A sign of things to come? Here’s hoping, the point taking North End within two points of the play-offs.