PNE supporters have their say on draw against Millwall
A good point in the end for Preston after a tough away day visit to the Lion’s Den in South East London.
North End had to come from a goal down to salvage a point but were good value in the end although the halves were as different as chalk and cheese as as far as we were concerned.
That’s not to say we played poorly in the first half, in fact we dominated play for some long periods, but after the break we finally found fast forward gear and always looked likely to score particularly in the last 20 minutes.
Millwall set up very much like a Simon Grayson team with two banks of four proving difficult to overcome and while we were the better side on paper, man for man, Neil Harris had his troops very organised and I don’t think anybody could really argue with a draw being a fair result.
The visitors lined up with the usual 4-2-3-1 with Alan Browne at right back after Tom Clarke moved into the centre to replace the injured Paul Huntington. The game was very to and fro in the first half of the first period with Millwall trying to break out on the counter attack.
Clarke dealt with a couple of half chances with one tackle in particular catching the eye of the travelling faithful. North End started to hold much of the possession as the half wore on and tried to make the home side run and chase the ball. It worked to a degree but we were not creating anywhere near enough chances in the first half apart from a couple of efforts by Robinson that went narrowly wide.
Millwall took the lead just before the break when a ball from the right by-line was not cleared and O’Brien got there first to send Millwall in one up at the break a little against the run of play.Alex Neil decided to change Bodin for Barkhuizen after the break with the new signing having had a fairly quiet first half on the right hand side. North End had moved up a gear in the second period as we were now chasing the game and I thought it worked to our advantage.
No doubt in my mind that we are a better side when we take the game to the opposition and this ultimately proved to be the case on Saturday. Gradually, North End started to build pressure on the home goal and when Horgan replaced Harrop the extra width was causing all sorts of problems for the home defence.
The equaliser finally came with just10 minutes to go when Johnson put Cunningham away down the left and his pinpoint cross found Robinson who converted with an excellent diving effort to win North End the point they deserved. PNE were right on top at the end but couldn’t get the winner despite a Horgan effort being desperately blocked late on.
So a satisfactory result in South Bermondsey and good London day out for the 1,483 North End fans inside the New Den. Millwall away is a tough fixture and I think North End are to be credited with coming away with a point albeit playing almost two different tactical halves.
Alan Browne did well, I thought, as a makeshift right back with all three substitutes influencing the game with the time that they were on the pitch. My man of the match, though, goes to Tom Clarke, who I thought was outstanding at the heart of the North End defence all afternoon.
Not a lot of damage done in the league table with North End just two points behind Sheffield United who are in sixth. Home games are must wins now if we are to reach the play offs and lets hope that run of victories starts next week when Birmingham are the visitors to Deepdale.
Lions spend most of their time resting showing only intermittent bursts of activity while hunting and this was certainly true about the lions of Preston who were far less active than the lions of Millwall for the majority of the match.
However following another trademark second half substitution by Alex Neil which introduced Daryl Horgan into the fray we finally began to show some attacking prowess.
During the interval following a half we had spent largely on the backfoot there were some rumblings of discontent on the concourse by some members of the large travelling numbers who had vocally backed their team to the hilt to make this the nosiest North End following ever to be seen at this venue.
I personally was of the opinion that although we had not looked likely to score our defence had in the main limited the home side to few openings and had settled well at a ground which has always had passionate fans and produced a hostile atmosphere.
Our last league visit to the New Den in April 2011 had ended in a 4-0 drubbing a result which more or less relegated us to League One.The centre back partnership that day had been loanee Bongana Khumalo and Craig Morgan while the side also contained the likes of Eddie Johnson Chris Brown and Ian Ashbee.On Saturday, in those positions we had Tom Clarke Ben Davies, Callum Robinson Jordan Hugill and Ben Pearson.
To me this illustrates that since then we have assembled ahard working team who will continue to gain experience and improve.As opposed to the last side who turned out at the New Den we are equipped to make a fully fledged assault on a play off place as opposed to fighting for survival.
It is a great credit to our manager Alex Neil that we are in this position sitting alongside some of the division’s big hitters like Aston Villa and Middlesborough and clubs who possess far greater financial power. Considering the level of expectation at the start of the season, I feel we are still doing remarkably well and progressing.
Although we did not win the game, it is another point gained against a side with one of the best home records in the division and only one defeat in 12 league matches speaks volumes.