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Preston North End post-match notebook: Another draw as McAvoy decision confuses many

Preston North End drew for the fifth successive league game as they held Stoke City to a 1-1 draw at Deepdale on Tuesday night. It’s nine games unbeaten in all competitions now, but it’s time they started to pick up three points.

Stoke took the lead through a soft goal, albeit it a good header from former Manchester United player Nick Powell. It didn’t look likely that PNE would get back into the game before half-time but Ben Whiteman scored directly from a free-kick just before the break.

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Draws need to be turned into wins quickly

A home match under the lights is an occasion that North End fans enjoy and has led to many great performances in the past. The Lilywhites could have done with the three points on Tuesday night to shoot them up the table. As things stand 11 points from the first ten games isn’t a wonderful position to be in. It didn’t help that we lost the first three games without putting up much of a fight.

It has certainly improved since then, and some fine performances have come in the last seven league games. Points away to Sheffield United and at home to West Bromwich Albion are good results for anyone in this league. There’s clearly a good morale within the squad and the players are working and fighting hard for the manager, but we could do with just a little more quality.

Are we going to score enough this season?

Ben Whiteman scored a great free-kick on Tuesday, and hopefully Paul Gallagher can lend his expertise on set pieces to players throughout the squad. In truth though, we didn’t create too much else and it’s hard to see where goals are going to come from.

The closest we came to another goal, was from Greg Cunningham. He burst forward from defence, and unleashed a great left-footed effort on goal that just whistled past Adam Davies’ goal.

There’s a lack of identity and style of play. I’m unsure how McAvoy wants us to play in attacking situations. We miss having attacking wingers, whipping balls in, or cutting into the box. We miss players like Scott Sinclair and Tom Barkhuizen. In games like the one with Stoke they would have given the opposition something to worry about.

Of course, Emil Riis has had a good start to the season, but he relies on long balls, second balls, and just general hard work from himself to create his own chances. Whilst the formation has looked fairly solid of late, I struggle to see us scoring more than two goals in many games this season.

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A very strange first substitution from McAvoy

At 1-1 in the 60th minute the game was there for the taking. Preston were closing down Stoke well, and it was time to step things up and go for the three points. On the bench, Scott Sinclair and Josh Murphy looked like the best options to stretch the Potters defence.

Instead Frankie McAvoy brought on Alan Browne. Strangely he took off Seani Maguire. It left us with just one striker on the pitch and four central midfielders behind him.

Browne wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t the right substitution at that time. We’re at home and a win was needed. Don’t be afraid to go for it Frankie! The fans will back you.

Instead Murphy was brought on with 10 minutes left, and had little time to get involved yet again.

Time to mix things up?

Frankie has gone with pretty much the same team for this unbeaten run in the league now, bar the odd injury here and there. Emil Riis and Sean Maguire have led the line together and whilst they always put in a great shift, it might be time to try something else.

I’ve often said Sinclair and Barkhuizen can be two of our most exciting players and natural finishers also. Capable of scoring with a bit of trickery or a burst of pace from the latter. They would provide good options as a second striker to Riis. Maguire has done very well, there’s no doubting that. But he doesn’t provide a scoring threat, and there aren’t many throughout the team anyway.

There’s only so much our wing-backs can do in getting forward, and aside from Daniel Johnson, not many chances fall the way of the other centre midfielders.

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