Simon Grayson was dismayed by Preston North End’s inability to keep a lead as two more precious promotion points went begging at 10-man Port Vale last night.
Twice they led at Vale Park through Daniel Johnson and a Joe Garner penalty but twice the Valiants equalised from the spot through Michael O’Connor.
In the last 10 minutes it looked like Port Vale were the team with 11 men and we only had 10.
Vale played the last half hour a man down after Richard Duffy was sent-off for handling Tom Clarke’s shot on the line, conceding the penalty which Garner stuck away.
It was the third game in a row and fifth time in seven matches that North End had drawn after being in winning positions, spelling disappointment for the 2,485 travelling fans who made the trip to the Potteries.
The 2-2 draw inched them four points clear in second place but MK Dons will cut that lead to one point if they beat Leyton Orient this afternoon.
If Preston are to clinch automatic promotion without having to rely on their rivals dropping points, they have to win their last three games against Notts County, Swindon and Colchester.
PNE boss Grayson said: “This was two points dropped, as it was on Tuesday night against Gillingham.
“In the first half we were totally in control, we didn’t allow Port Vale any shots on target.
“We got the first goal through Daniel Johnson and we knew we had to start the second half well to stop them coming back into the game.
“But we didn’t do that, we stopped doing the things we had done so well in the first half.
“When we got back in front playing against 10 men, our game management had to be better.
“However, the players were dropping far too deep, they weren’t stopping balls at source.
“We let Port Vale dictate to our back four where they wanted to take them when the opposite should have been happening.
“It should have been us taking them up the pitch and pushing people forward.
“Unfortunately the game management has been poor from our aspect and we have dropped four points.”
None of the three penalties were contentious, Grayson not arguing with the two awarded against his side.
“I have no complaints with the penalties but they were both avoidable from our point of view,” said Grayson.
“For the first one, Tom Clarke should have seen the flight of the ball better and realised it was going over his head.
“He decided to wrestle with Tom Pope and gave the penalty away.
“The second one, we should have stopped the ball from the throw-in, it got into the striker too easily, John Welsh went to clear it and the lad nicked it off him.
“We had to be more alert, understand situations better.
“In the last 10 minutes it looked like Port Vale were the team with 11 men and we only had 10. That advantage wasn’t taken by us.
“At 2-1 up, what was disappointing was that we didn’t have too many chances to make it 3-1. We didn’t keep the ball, put them on the back foot or utilise the spare man.
“That is frustrating, we have let the supporters down again, there were so many here.
“When we have seen games out in the past, we have been very organised and disciplined.
“In the last couple of games and a couple before Easter, we haven’t done that.
“Afterwards in the dressing room, we finished on a positive note by saying the destiny is still in our own hands.
“It is very difficult to accept that at the moment because we are making it very difficult for ourselves.
“We go again Tuesday and if we win our next three games, we get promoted.”