Sunderland 0-0 Preston North End - Verdict as PNE need a spark and can't blame lack of goals on bad luck

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Preston North End made it six 0-0 draws in the Championship this season as they held Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

It was another game gone begging where PNE didn't find the back of the net.

They had chances, with two Lilywhites efforts cleared off the line by the Black Cats but it again resulted in nought.

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Sunderland were not without chances of their own, Patrick Roberts seeing a shot well held by Freddie Woodman with Jack Clarke also going close.

Preston North End's Emil Riis battles with Sunderland's Danny Batth and Alex Pritchard.Preston North End's Emil Riis battles with Sunderland's Danny Batth and Alex Pritchard.
Preston North End's Emil Riis battles with Sunderland's Danny Batth and Alex Pritchard.

The home side were a good watch all in all, they have good footballers who like the ball at their feet. With a front three of Roberts, Clarke and Alex Pritchard there is plenty of unpredictability, plenty of trickery and plenty to get supporters off their seat.

Although PNE dealt with them well, once you take a step back from the emotion of the game, with those sorts of the players the home crowd always felt like they had a chance to get a goal. It is those sorts of players that turn a 0-0, as it ended up being, into narrow victories.

North End at the moment that do not have one of those types of players.

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Cameron Archer last season was able to drop a shoulder and find a finish, he was able to make something from very little. The extra striker Ryan Lowe needed in the summer was of that mould, someone able to inspire and capture the imagination.

Preston North End's Robbie Brady at the Stadium of Light.Preston North End's Robbie Brady at the Stadium of Light.
Preston North End's Robbie Brady at the Stadium of Light.

North End were left to battle it out in the North East. To their credit, they never shy away from a battle, from a fight, and they never give in.

The squad has an excellent attitude and they are all excellent pros, but that is almost to their detriment at the moment.

They are so hard working, so dogged and determined that it is making their life so much harder when they are trying to be creative, and do something a bit different.

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They all know their roles so well and it seems like they're so embedded in them that they're just doing the same things over and over again.

Many a time PNE will get down the channel on either side but run of out ideas or options, defenders are happy for them to be trapped in a corner.

It is hard to see where the goals come from at the moment.

That being said, and Lowe will be criticised for his view, the PNE boss felt his side were unlucky not to win. In truth, maybe they were unlucky. They had two cleared off the line and Ched Evans had a shot saved from close range that, had it been aimed a yard either side of where it was, could well have found the net.

But at this stage of the season, after nearly a dozen games and just three goals, luck isn't quite a reason.

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Cursing luck is something that can cool frustrations for a couple of games but after 11 games, PNE must find more in order to create.

The fixture list coming up is going to be gruelling, but at least a quick turnaround quickly brings another chance to score, to get the monkey off the back and hopefully find some form further up the pitch.

The defence, it has to be said, continues to be nothing short of remarkable, particularly when they get no respite from the forwards in killing off games and taking the wind out of the opposition.

Sunderland had the better of the ball in the North East, spurred on by around 37,000 fans, and got in some decent areas but North End’s defenders always seemed to somehow get a block in, or a tackle, even if it looked improbable.

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For the criticisms that will come the way of PNE there should be equal praise for what the defence is able to do.

A draw at Sunderland earlier on in the season is a good point – it really is a good point at any time in the season – but because of North End’s shortfalls so far, it was a game that they needed to wins.

They got the benefit of the doubt earlier this season, admittance than in isolations draws against sides like Watford were always going to be good points, but it’s getting to the stage where even that seems disappointing. They must get more out of games.

Sunderland had the first chance of the game on Saturday, after six minutes, Luke O'Nien with a cross-field ball in behind the PNE defence with Jack Clarke's cross deflecting off Liam Lindsay with Freddie Woodman keeping it out of the net.

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They did the same again just a minute later, O'Nien's ball to Clarke this time resulting in the latter finding Alex Pritchard who sent the ball wide.

North End had their first chance on nine minutes, Ben Whiteman's corner was kept alive and the taker then met a header on the volley but his strike, having beaten the goalkeeper, was cleared off the line by Aji Alese.

Clarke continued to cause problems as his checked inside from the left wing and couldn't find the top corner after 24 mintues.

Woodman made his first genuine save of the game a minute before the end of the first half, Elliot Embleton trying his luck from a tight angle but being denied.

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It took nine minutes for the first chance of the second half to come about, Liam Lindsay nodded the ball down from a free kick to the feet of Evans who shot high at the net and saw his effort palmed over by Anthony Patterson.

Jordan Storey then became the second PNE player to see an effort cleared off the line as his header was knocked away by Lynden Gooch with the goalkeeper beaten 12 minutes from time.

10 minutes before the end the hosts came forward and again tested Woodman, this time Rovers drove the ball low at the former Newcastle United who did well to hold onto it.