Tuesday 10th April.
The games are coming thick and fast at the moment, and we have
hardly had time to catch our breath after the marvellous win at
Wolves on Saturday before tonight’s visit to Deepdale. With Lee
Morris returned to Pride Park to help with their survival push,
our own survival effort would have to be made with Ben Thornley
playing on the left wing, but other than that the side was the same
as the one that performed so creditably on Saturday.
When you’re in deep poo at the wrong end of the table wins are
wonderful, but failing a maximum haul the most important thing is
not to lose and Town set out their stall to do precisely this. Needing
a win to boost their play off hopes, Preston attacked right from
the kick-off and created an excellent early effort in the third
minute as Richard Cresswell headed Lee Cartwright’s cross towards
goal from the edge of the area, but Nico Vaesen was up to the task
and saved well. The hosts continued to completely dominate the game
yet were unable to create any clear-cut opportunities as the defence
stood firm once again.
More than 10 minutes had passed before Town created their first
real opening when a Dean Gorré shot from 20 yards was deflected
for a corner but the ensuing place kick was easily cleared by the
home defence. Buoyed up by this effort Town began to look slightly
more adventurous, and Ben Thornley had a shot blocked by Lee Cartwright
and Steve Jenkins follow-up effort was blasted wide of the goal.
Both sides were involved in a number of attacks, but both seemed
unable to create any clear-cut chances as the defences were on top
at either end.
The two midfields cancelled each other out and Chris Holland seemed
to revel in his return to the club where his career began and appeared
to thrive in the blustery and showery conditions. Preston managed
to accrue a number of corners but failed to capitalise as the defence
was in no mood to capitulate and even the front players were back
helping out for set plays. In fact it was a clearance from a Preston
attack that was to finally end Andy Booth’s involvement in the game
when he caught his ankle on base of the upright to deny Colin Murdock
from a close range effort.
Preston continued to have the better of the game without reward
as Andy Booth continued to try to run off his injury, but it left
Town lacking attacking options and Lucketti and Dyson had to work
hard to resist the constant aerial threat posed by the hosts. Just
a minute or so before half time Booth’s injury finally saw him leave
the field to be replaced by Kevin Gallen, and I was surprised that
he didn’t try to make it through to the interval to receive treatment
and perhaps continue in the second half.
Preston seemed more fired up following the interval and soon created
a couple of opportunities which both fell to former Sheffield Wednesday
man Richard Cresswell. His first was a header from eight yards out
that was well saved by Nico Vaesen, and then shortly afterwards
shot towards goal but a couple of deflections saw the ball pass
safely for a corner. Little was seen of Town as an attacking force
as they looked to hold on for a point and they defended with real
purpose, none less than Steve Jenkins who has adapted surprisingly
well to his left back role, and the Welshman pulled off a brilliant
tackle with around a quarter of an hour remaining to halt the progress
of the lively Cresswell.
The second half was not quite entirely all Preston as Town did
manage to break their defensive shackles from time to time, and
Dean Gorré tried his luck from 20 yards out but the Preston keeper
collected his goal-bound shot quite routinely. Sensing that there
was the possibility of an unlikely victory Town continued to break
forward when the opportunity was there, and Delroy Facey and Ben
Thornley both had half chances to try to steal something from the
game. The best late chance for Town fell to Kevin Gallen as he got
a touch onto a Ben Thornley cross but his effort was deflected to
safety by Graham Alexander. Even the introduction of top scorer
Macken who was returning from injury failed to ignite the “Lilywhites”
as the back four continued to mop up any half chances Preston were
able to create.
Overall it was a game of limited chances and limited entertainment
and both sides looked reasonably content to settle for a point as
they looked to consolidate their respective causes. The full time
whistle was welcomed for two reasons. Firstly it was a valuable
point from a potentially tricky fixture, and secondly, it ended
the suffering of the 13,000 or so who had witnessed a game that
was apparently as dull as ditchwater. No matter, it’s points that
keep teams up and not performances. I don’t really care if the remaining
6 games of the season are like watching paint dry if they bring
the couple of wins and the odd draw we probably need for survival.
We have managed to eliminate some of the sloppy goals we were conceding
in the earlier part of the season making it possible to hold on
for 0-0 draws or possibly pilfer a few wins here and there. Six
no-score draws for the rest of the season would probably do the
trick, although it wouldn’t be very good for the blood pressure.
Queens Park Rangers only managed a draw tonight, and although
Tranmere won we have lifted ourselves into 19th place above Portsmouth
and Grimsby, just a point behind Stockport on whom we have a game
in hand. The safety equation now is that all we have to do is match
the results of Portsmouth, Grimsby or Crystal Palace and our superior
goal difference will do the rest. The only problem is that our Easter
games against first and second in the division will make this a
Preston North End 0
Position in table – 19th
Town – Vaesen; Jenkins; Lucketti; Dyson;
Heary; Thornley; Armstrong; Holland; Booth (Gallen 44); Facey;
Gorré. Subs not used – Margetson; Moses; Gray; Irons.
Preston North End – Lucas; Alexander; Edwards;
Kidd; McKenna; Cartwright (Barry-Murphy 75); Gregan; Healy
(Macken 61); Murdock; Rankine (Anderson 61); Cresswell. Subs
not used – Lonergan; Gunnlaugsson.
Referee – Chris Foy (St Helens). Attendance