Verdict as Preston North End fall short but a spark could set them alight

For the second week in a row Preston North End fell just short of getting three points in the Championship – this time drawing 0-0 with Hull City.
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It was a fairly even game for the most part, though PNE definitely had the better of the chances and ended the game the stronger side.

Hull, though they did not threaten too much, had decent spells in the game and did not look bad on the ball, playing their way out from the back on several occasions and beating Ryan Lowe’s side’s press.

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It was a much different game to last week’s goalless draw at Wigan, that being a battle and with strong performances on each side whereas this weekend was less so.

Preston North End's Robbie Brady see this shot hit the woodwork.Preston North End's Robbie Brady see this shot hit the woodwork.
Preston North End's Robbie Brady see this shot hit the woodwork.

It was not so much a physical test for PNE as much as it was a technical test. They needed to be quick and slick on the ball.

They needed to look after it better and maintain their quality for longer periods. There seemed to be too much urgency at times, either going long or trying to force the issue without taking a touch – the quick without the slick.

It was those moments where their quality lacked and there were also times where their probing seemed to go on too long and, watching on, you just wanted someone to beat a man or attempt a killer pass.

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It may not have come off but you can see the intent, you can see that they wanted to make things happen.

Preston North End's Emil Riis.Preston North End's Emil Riis.
Preston North End's Emil Riis.

North End will often recycle the ball from side to side in order to try and find openings but it can also provide a safety net in that if something is not quite on ahead of them, they can always revert back to a centre half or a deeper player and that pressure is then passed on from them.

That’s where they needed more pace in their play.

Finding the middle ground is the key and also easier said than done.

There was plenty of good points in North End’s game, the back three, and goalkeeper, were all excellent once again.

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Liam Lindsay was another standout, with a bash to the head not enough to keep him from carrying on as an ankle injury wasn’t enough last week.

Jordan Storey looks every inch a top Championship defender and to paraphrase North End manager Lowe, Andrew Hughes is Andrew Hughes.

The North End backline is becoming a figure of consistency and in back-to-back weeks they have rarely been troubled.

That is not for the want of trying by the opposition, they have just outmatched their opposite numbers.

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Hull had spent plenty of money this summer, helped with the sale of Keane Lewis-Potter, but time and time again PNE showed that it is not always about finance – it was just a pity they couldn’t find that winning goal.

Whilst the goals may currently be lacking, Lowe has a solid foundation on which he can work from.

Of course, however, they must find the net. It is going to be the most talked about issue concerning Preston at the moment because they have played two games and scored in neither.

If this run was to come in a month, or two month’s time, then the conversation would probably be entirely different.

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Right now however, PNE just begun the season without scoring a goal, so it will seem worse.

It isn’t that they’re not looking like scoring, quite the opposite. They are creating chances and should have scored in both of their games so far this season.

But when the aim is to be near the top end of the table, fine margins will make all the difference and making sure you can find the net every week will get you a long way.

It is clear to everyone watching PNE at the moment that they need a fourth striker, Lowe has been clear on that and it is no secret.

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He opted to persist with Emil Riis and Troy Parrott on Saturday rather than bring on Mikey O’Neill as another option but you don’t quite know what you’re going to get with the youngster, who is inexperienced at this level.

Lowe has spoken about needing someone who can create something out of nothing and that is what they missed on Saturday. An extra spark in the side could set it alight.

There is quality in the team, and it could be that it all clicks into gear next time out and the goals flow.

PNE started the game the stronger of the two sides, Riis seeing a strike beaten away inside the opening five minutes.

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Hull had a couple of their own before the break but nothing that forced the hands of Freddie Woodman.

Two minutes into the second half Robbie Brady’s deflected strike came back off the woodwork and later on his cross would find Parrott, heading it into the path of Alan Browne who was denied from close range.

With less than 10 minutes to go Ben Woodburn showed wonderful feet to beat his man before sending a 40-yeard pass over the top of the defence with the outside of his foot to pick out the run of Parrott. The Irishman brought it down but took too long, and saw his shot smothered by Matt Ingram.

There was time still for the Welshman to put the ball in the path of Riis for a final shot on goal but North End could not find a way to break the deadlock.