Tuesday, 18 March 2014

It Wasn't Pretty

Preston North End 0
Sheffield United 0
Attendance 8,892
Away Blades 658

After winning ten on the bounce we all knew something had to give at some point, and many feared in form Preston would hand us our first defeat in ten, but despite being second best most of the night and our area becoming the proverbial last stand we came away with a point and a clean sheet, still undefeated and a strong statement that we will lay down for no team. 

Luke Freeman made his first team debut playing at right back, in the only change from the Carlisle win, Ben Davies dropping to the bench. PNE started as they meant to go on nearly taking the lead in the opening minute of the game, a Volley from Davies was pushed away by Howard who had to bravely pounce on the ball before tenacious striker Garner could strike in a rebound. United had to soak up a tremendous amount of pressure, Garner and Gallagher both having chances that were just of target, it became obvious today was going to be a tough test of character. Jamie Murphy and Ryan Flynn were unable to make much of an impact, both being double marked and with only one striker their options for overlaps or passing and moving were limited, a full back marked them tightly and in the gap behind lay a strong centre back, so any time a full back was beaten by our wingers the pressure was mopped up and disposed of before a chance could be created, I personally would have like to have seen more attacking options utilized in this game to take the reliance off of our wingers. Baxter look a terrible fall and landed on his neck, he seemed winded but carried on, he never made much of an impact from that moment onwards. It seemed every time the ball went into our box PNE and their fans were screaming for a handball, whilst it became stale and predictable they maybe did have a case when Michael Doyle made what can only be described as a tremendous save from a long range effort. On the half an hour mark Conor Coady had his goal ruled out for offside, we can have no complaints as the loanee was clearly past his marker and in an offside position. Preston just kept their feet on our throats and we had no choice but to deal with everything they threw at us, Garner had two clear cut chances miss the target and Davies used his strength to cause endless problems. Harris made a heroic tackle blocking the shot of Garner who was clear on goal, Harris unfortunately picked up a knock soon after and was replaced by Hill, matt Hill picked up an injury after only a minute on the field. On the break of half time after having a tame effort picked up comfortably by The Preston keeper Baxter was was flattened by a challenge and had to receive treatment as the whistle blew for the break.

Whilst Baxter made it back out for the restart Matt Hill was not so lucky, his injury (one must believe he did not have a chance to properly warm up) forced him off the pitch and he was replaced by Davies who took up the right back roll, Freeman switching to the left. Preston continued to take the game to us but in this half we seemed a little braver going forward, unfortunately Grayson's trademark physical edge tactics prevented us from making any moves that could be considered dangerous. Preston came agonizingly close to taking the lead when their young starlet Brownhill hit an effort into the ground before it rebounded of the post, a look of relief from Howard who along with the defence was having a busy evening. United did manage to force a few corners, and had a clear penalty turned down when the PNE centre back had Harry Maguire by the shirt and dragged him back in the box, both teams now had a right to feel aggrieved, but as referees have this tenancy to even up previous mistakes we had to just get on with it. Porter replaced Baxter who had a disapointing game and had a clear headed chance go wide and over, but with two substitutes wasted on injurys it was unfair to rely on Porter to make an impact all by himself. Preston again forced us back and the final third of the game was uncomfortable as they tested our defence again and again, but we held strong and even after a very tough four minutes added time we held our resolve to claim a vital point. The winning run may be over but that's now eight clean sheets on the bounce and and eight game league unbeaten run. With Wolves no doubt analysing every second of the game on their televisions I believe that we will have to be prepared for another tough test come Saturday, but if we can continue to hold teams out as we did here we will remain hard to beat and the only way will be forwards. 

-Jonathan Gascoigne

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