Verdict: Lancashire Post PNE Fans’ Panel’s John Roper

Aston Villa's Sam Johnstone clears a Preston North End attack
Aston Villa's Sam Johnstone clears a Preston North End attack

Another controversial decision goes against North End and it is only one point instead of three away at high-flying Aston Villa.

North End were looking comfortable midway through the second half and were on course for an excellent away win.

Suddenly the referee’s assistant is the only person in Villa Park who sees a foul by Barkhuizen and he waves his flag leaving the referee no choice but to award a penalty kick.

Barkhuizen had given North End the lead 10 minutes before the break in an entertaining first half that saw Declan Rudd make a couple of excellent saves before Alex Neil’s boys took the lead.

Both sides had chances to win it late on but I thought that on the night we would have been very good value for all three points but, alas, it wasn’t to be.

Three changes for North End on the evening saw Greg Cunningham, Ben Pearson and Lewis Moult come into the side for Earl, Welsh and Johnson.

North End played their usual 4-2-3-1 and looked very comfortable although the home side had a couple of chances early on, which were very well dealt with by Rudd.

At the other end, Moult was getting up to speed with the top half of the Championship and considering the time he has been at the club, I think he is making good progress.

North End sat in well for 20 minutes but then really started to dictate the play with Browne and Pearson running the game in midfield .

On 37 minutes Barkhuizen`s overhead effort in a crowded box beat Sam Johnstone and North End went into the break one up and extremely good value for it.

Steve Bruce made two subtitutions at half-time in an attempt to bolster a lack lustre Aston Villa side and although Villa started brightly, North End were soon right into them again and dictating play once more.

Some juicy tackles were made by the home side but they seemed to escape punishment as the favoured “big team bias” appeared to rear its ugly head once more.

With the game going nowhere, Barkhuizen was trying to let the ball go out but was unbelievably adjudged to have fouled Onomah and Lewis Grabban levelled the scores from the penalty spot.

Neil was incandescent with rage, as were the North End players but there was little they could do and despite both sides trying to go for the win, the game ended all square, albeit leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of the 972 North End fans inside Villa Park.

Just when our luck is going to change with the decisions of the officials is anybody’s guess, but this was a competent perfrmrance by North End and one of which they can be proud, played out in one of the cathedrals of English football.

The way Browne and Pearson dominated in the centre to the way the front four showed fluidity it was a pleasure to see us playing football of this standard against a team with a wage bill at least eight times bigger than our own.

Only three points from the last three games but those who have seen all three encounters will tell you that fact doesn’t tell half the story.

However, it’s onwards and upwards and North End need to make these draws mean something by taking all three points when Ipswich Town visit Deepdale on Saturday.