Sunday, 10 September 2017

Preston North End 1 v 1 Barnsley

Saturday 9th September 2017
EFL Championship
Deepdale, Preston
Admission: £24.00
Programme: £3.00
Attendance: 12,183
Match Rating: 3

A Virgin West Coast trains sale offering tickets from London to Preston for £11.00 each way presented an affordable opportunity to tick off another of the 92 today. It nearly didn't happen though - as I reached my local train station, I realised that I had forgotten my railcard and so needed to return home to collect it. This caused me to miss to my intended train into London, leaving it very tight to cross the city in time to catch the train out of Euston. Happily, my inbound train arrived slightly ahead of schedule, the tube journey was trouble free, and I boarded my booked Virgin train with huge relief.

Deepdale is just under a half hour walk from Preston train station, and is rather unspectacular from the outside at least, with a fairly typical appearance of an upgraded Football League stadium. There is a nice statue of Sir Tom Finney however, positioned in the midst of a fountain recreating a famous image of him tackling on a waterlogged pitch. The stadium contains four separate stands, all of which have been rebuilt in turn since the mid nineties. It has an attractive symmetry about it, with three stands virtually identical in size and design, and the fourth is slightly different in that the top of the seating area is lower, with corporate boxes immediately above, and with a row of seemingly empty space above that, save for a media gantry in the middle. All of the stands are single tiered, offer excellent views, with good incline between rows and no supporting pillars, and along the top of the stands and in between them with the floodlights on top there is distinctive white zigzag supporting poles. The programme was fairly typical Football League fare, 100 pages on glossy paper, with plenty of interesting information to read for both regulars and neutrals, although the positioning of information was a little odd, for example the team line-ups located in the middle, although the programme did not naturally open there.

After both teams finished in mid table last season, Preston in 11th place and Barnsley in 14th place, Preston have had a better start to this season under new manager Alex Neill, with two wins and two draws from their opening five league games and were in seventh place going into this game. Barnsley have won two and lost the other three of their games, and were in 15th place.

On a mainly overcast afternoon with a couple of sharp showers, this was a game that Preston were the better team for long periods, creating most of the goalscoring chances, and will feel disappointed not to have claimed all three points, but generally lacked quality in the final third. No doubt that Barnsley were more than happy with an away point, as demonstrated by their delaying tactics throughout the second half. Preston had the first clear chance when Jordan Hugill, who handed in a transfer request late in the August transfer window, fired a shot just wide of the near post from 8 yards following a pass back from the byline. They did take the lead on 23 minutes when Tom Barkhuizen crossed from close to the corner flag, and Sean Maguire, a summer signing from Cork City, deftly glanced the ball with his head across the keeper and into the net inside the far post. However within a couple of minutes, Barnsley equalised. Adam Hammill crossed into the six yard box, a couple of defenders couldn't deal with the ball, and Brad Potts bundled the ball into the net.

Three minutes after the break and the visitors had a great chance to take the lead, but Ike Ugbo, on loan from Chelsea, saw his first time shot in the six yard box blocked on the line by Darnell Fisher. Preston then had a great chance of their own to take the lead, but captain Paul Huntington's powerful header was blocked en route to goal by his own player, Stephy Mavididi, virtually on the goal line. As the clock ticked down towards the end, Preston had a succession of corners and came very close on several occasions, but they just couldn't find the back of the net and so the points were shared, and no doubt the visitors were the happier with the point.

Video highlights of this match can be found by clicking here.

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