Tom Sandells' verdict: Preston North End were lacking a bit of quality to beat Wigan Athletic in opener
Preston North End couldn’t find the quality to give them the edge over Wigan Athletic on the opening day of the season as they drew 0-0.
Although PNE are into their seventh season in the Championship you would have thought it was the other way around on Saturday.
Their biggest issue on the day was just that their quality let them down. Feedback like ‘just be better’ is not exactly constructive, but they were just found lacking.
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Too many times it took the Lilywhites, or yellows as they were for their trip to the DW, mutliple touches to get the ball under their spell. That was also the case further up the pitch as it seemed like PNE just wanted things to be a little too perfect for them.
Rather than firing off shots and having half a chance at it, they would instead try another touch to set it up a little bit better or to give themselves a little bit more room.
It was naive to expect such gifts at Wigan who were crowned League One champions last season, especially with the types of players they had.
Max Power and Tom Naylor were not for giving an inch in the middle of their midfield and on the whole got the better of North End’s.
It was a rare poor outing for all three of PNE’s midfielders, none of them really having an impact on the game despite their best efforts.
The visitors required a passage of quality, a couple of slick touches and passes that could unlock the Latics back line but that never really came.
They did have their chances, and had the better of them in the game, and should have taken all three points.
An excellent, arching first time through ball from Emil Riis released Troy Parrott in behind for the best opening of the game, though the Irishman was thwarted by Ben Amos – as was Riis on the follow up.
Both should have done better with their chances but that is the nature of the beast for strikers. Some weeks they will miss those they should score and other weeks it will be the opposite.
Riis’ pass to set Parrott one on one with the goalkeeper was the only real individual moment of quality in the match for North End who were forced to battle it out right from the first minute.
Ched Evans sending off just eight minutes after coming off the bench is not one that needs much analysis, he was late in the tackle and caught Curtis Tilt high up near his chest as both were sliding on the floor.
Though Bobby Madley was keen to use his whistle throughout the contest, he was right to in this instance and to send the Welshman off.
It left pressure on the defence to hold off the incoming onslaught but on reflection they did so with ease.
Wigan looked a threat in transitions with the likes of James McClean and Callum Lang bringing the ball forward but once they got close to the North End backline they found their progress swiftly halted.
Liam Lindsay was a titan in the middle of the back three, soldiering on with an ankle problem, and was well supported by Andrew Hughes and Jordan Storey, back in the Championship, either side of him.
In truth, but for one save you would still expect him to make, Freddie Woodman had a pretty routine debut.
But as Ryan Lowe said after the game, and the players before him in the changing room, if you can’t win then make sure you don’t get beat.
PNE did just that. It wasn’t their day in front of goal, chances were hard to come by and when they did they couldn’t take them.
Their usual strong point, their midfield, couldn’t impact the game.
Preston’s pretty straight foward style also seemed to play into the hands of the Latics. Lowe likes simple passes, he has no need for Hollywood balls and said upon his arrival that his players would impress him more with simple passes than the fancy 40-yarders.
That kept life quite simple for Power and Naylor who could, like Terriers, see ball and chase.
The straight lines in Lowe’s system can seem a little limiting on days where they lack the quality to quickly take a touch, play the pass and execute. But thankfully it is still early days, we’re one game into a 46 game season and 90 minutes are no indication of how the season as a whole will go.
Wigan did have their chances in the game, going close early on with former North End loanee Will Keane meeting Latics skipper Tendayi Darikwa's low cross from the right but firing wide of the near post.
Riis had his first opportunity just over half an hour in, he got just inside the box before dragging his effort on his left foot across goal and wide of the mark.
PNE should have taken the lead before the break, in the first minute of stoppage time, as Riis played an excellent first time ball for Parrott who was thwarted first, then Riis.
There was another PNE chance in first half stoppage time as Andrew Hughes' header from a corner was deflected off Riis and onto the crossbar before going behind.
Wigan were back on top in the second half and Lindsay threw himself in the way of a Jason Kerr header just after the break, a vital intervention.
PNE's best chance of the second half came when Parrott got in behind the defence on the left side of the box to drive low across the face of goal but his strike beat the far post.
Then came Evans’ red card. The Welshman, who had been on the pitch for eight minutes at this point, sliding in late defender Curtis Tilt as he went to ground setting up a tense final 10 minutes.