Brentford 1, Preston North End 1: Read Dave Seddon's verdict
Although draws have slowed Preston's progress at times this season, sharing the spoils with Brentford was a result well received.
A combination of factors contributed to that train of thought, not least that Griffin Park has been far from a happy hunting ground for North End down the years.
They had lost the previous four visits to Brentford turf, with 17 trips since the 1980s delivering only two wins.
The scars of last season’s 5-0 hammering were still in the mind, while for this clash PNE were without influential trio Ben Pearson, Ben Davies and skipper Tom Clarke.
Greg Cunningham added his name to that list a quarter of an hour from time, sent-off for two bookings in the space of 90 seconds.
So even taking into account that a green-clad North End briefly held the lead, I put this one in the point won category rather than two dropped.
This was a 13th draw of the campaign, the joint highest in the division with Sheffield Wednesday.
It is the draws at home that Alex Neil probably rues more than any on the road, with the Preston boss pleased enough with this one.
“We’ve lost one league game in 15 which is incredible at this level,” said Neil.
“If you had offered us a point on the way down, we would probably have taken it knowing we have some big games coming up at home.”
Neil’s men have a resilience about them on the road, this an eighth league away game without defeat.
Four wins and four draws have been brought back from their travels, the 3-0 defeat at Ipswich in November seeming a long time ago.
This point was well earned, there nothing ostentatious about Preston’s display.
They got in the faces of Brentford in a bid to stop the home side’s passing flow.
A high press was evident in a bid to force the Bees to go longer from the back rather than play it out.
There were times when play was slowed a touch too cynically at throw-ins and set pieces, something North End perhaps need to be more subtle about.
Equally, the visitors played some decent football at times, there being spells when they moved the ball well.
The absence of Pearson from the midfield was overcome.
When he missed the clash with Birmingham last month, PNE’s engine room looked flimsy – not so this time.
Alan Browne dropped back into Pearson’s holding role and put in a hard-working, tackling display which more than made up for having no Pearo at the party.
Browne is one of the first names Neil writes on the team-sheet and is getting much more appreciated in the stands.
For the third game running, PNE supporters voted him their man of the match.
He was right up there for me, however I gave the nod to Paul Huntington for what was a commanding display in the centre of defence.
In the final 15 minutes as Brentford looked to ram home the advantage of having an extra man, they slung cross after across into the Preston box, Huntington equal to most of them.
Credit too goes to Tommy Spurr alongside Huntington.
This was Spurr’s first appearance since tearing the medial ligament in his left knee in October, an injury which needed surgery.
He slotted back in well and although there was the odd sign of rustiness, in general Spurr was solid and operated well with Huntington.
Only an offside flag denied him a goal on his return, Spurr having met a Paul Gallagher free-kick to head home in the first half.
Neil argued post-match that Spurr had been played on by a Bees player, that not his only complaint about a decision which went against Preston.
The other in the first half concerned the yellow card shown to Josh McEachran.
When Callum Robinson went clear of the Brentford defence, McEachran stopped him in his tracks with a rugby tackle which would not have looked out of place at nearby Twickenham.
Referee Simon Hooper felt McEachran had not been the last man, with sufficient cover coming from the sides.
But replays back-up Neil’s view, Robinson likely to have had a clear run into the box had McEachran not done his Dylan Hartley impression.
That incident and Spurr’s disallowed effort came in what was Preston’s best spell of the contest.
They just about edged the first half, although the hosts looked a threat when they got Ollie Watkins on the ball down their left-wing.
Declan Rudd made a good save just before half-time, the keeper spreading himself to block Neal Maupay’s shot after he’d been played in behind the Preston defence.
The contest’s two goals came in an eight-minute spell either side of the hour.
North End drew first blood as Tom Barkhuizen netted his sixth goal of the season.
When Gallagher’s high ball was cleared by the Brentford defence, it bounced the way of Cunningham.
He nodded the ball forward to Barkhuizen down the left channel who worked the ball on to his right-foot under the close attention of full-back Henrik Dalsgaard.
BARKHUIZEN whipped in a cross, the ball flying across the box and into the net at the far post, goalkeeper Daniel Bentley caught flat-footed and in two minds by Robinson’s movement towards the cross.
Brentford restored parity in the 62nd minute, moments after McEachran’s low shot had flashed across the face of the goal and been cleared for a throw-in.
The ball was played in field to Florian JOZEFZOON from the throw-in, the Dutchman turning on to his left foot and drilling a low shot past Rudd at the near post.
Cunningham’s booking for running in front of Bentley looked innocuous but within a minute or so proved costly as he slid in on Jozefzoon on the Brentford right.
The second yellow card was followed by red, leaving Preston a man down.
They held firm, Alan Judge’s free-kick which Rudd turned against the bar, as close as they came to being breached by the hosts.