Preston were just minutes away from a big win over Leeds United on Tuesday night, but ended up taking a 1-1 draw.
After defeat at Reading on Saturday, North End needed a response against Leeds; the first of two big home games. With Blackburn Rovers to come on Saturday, avoiding defeat last night was paramount.
Leeds dominated possession, as we knew they would, but Preston did what we knew they would too; show fight, endeavour and have a go at Marcelo Bielsa’s side where possible.
North End soaked up the pressure and opened the scoring on the break. Alan Browne’s threaded pass found Seani Maguire on the right, and he crossed for Tom Barkhuizen to score from close range.
Holding on was always going to be difficult, and Eddie Nketiah headed home an equalise for Leeds in the 87th minute. A late penalty shout for Leeds was correctly waved away, with Ben Pearson taking the ball in a challenge with Tyler Roberts.
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Had you offered most Preston fans a point before this one, they’d have probably taken it. Getting back on track after Reading was key, and this looked like a tough game on paper given how impressive Leeds are under Bielsa.
Yet as the final whistle blew and Deepdale cleared, there was a slight sense of a missed opportunity. With 15 minutes to go, North End had the lead. It could have been a huge three points, but we saw fine margins late on go against North End.
Firstly, Nketiah’s looping header for the equaliser was met by Patrick Bauer on the line, but he just couldn’t get it away, merely heading the ball up into the net. Then late on, Brad Potts flashed a header wide of the far post by mere millimetres – and Seani Maguire was just as close to tapping it in himself.
North End were so close to claiming a huge three points, but it wasn’t to be. Those fine margins will hurt, but Alex Neil will be proud of his side’s performance.
‘Teams like Preston’ continues
Whilst North End fans maybe felt deflated at the late equaliser, some sections of the Leeds fanbase began the old cliche. ‘We should be beating teams like Preston’.
We’re all used to it now, the line rolled out by pretty much every fanbase in the Championship when they don’t beat Preston. We all have a laugh about it, but just why are North End treated with this disrespect every other week? Since being promoted in 2015, Preston have finished outside of the top 11 just once. This isn’t necessarily a plucky underdog story anymore, Preston are just a good side who rarely get the respect deserved.
Yes, Leeds are a great, historic club – and you could make a strong case that Preston are too – but both teams are in the Championship now because that’s where they deserve to be. The notion touted on social media that Leeds won’t go up if they can’t beat Preston is foolish; Leeds sit just two points ahead of North End in the table, and were on able to manage one more shot on target at Deepdale.
Alex Neil probably loves being written off, but it does become grating. Preston may not spend big money, have big crowds or have a big-name manager, but have a team willing to fight and scrap and battle whilst having more than enough quality to take down many Championship sides.
Leeds may well have a better shot at promotion this season, but Bielsa will know his side were in a game last night, and to everyone else in the Championship, North End aren’t rolling over for anybody. Get used to it.