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Preston post-match notebook: Belief, a huge goal, and an important point

There was almost a sense of excitement coming into this game after a disappointing season.

There was optimism amongst some fans as a new era begun under Frankie McAvoy. Norwich City were always going to provide stern opposition but with some key players missing for the Canaries, it was felt there was an opportunity for North End to grab something from the game, and in the 95th minute they duly did.

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A new shape

When an assistant manager steps up to take the reins as an interim or caretaker it is always intriguing to see if they will carry on in the same manner or look to put their own stamp on the team. I don’t think too many were expecting the line up that came out at 2pm on Friday.

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Emil Riis and Ched Evans both started up front, whilst Scott Sinclair played centrally with Tom Barkhuizen, Ryan Ledson and captain Daniel Johnson providing the rest of the midfield.

Anthony Gordon had to settle for a place on the bench, but it was refreshing to see two strikers up front who would cause a problem for most defences. Norwich’s defence had two young lads in with Bali Mumba and Andrew Omobamidele coming in to a makeshift defence.

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Lacking quality

Preston had two great chances midway through the first half when the score was still 0-0. Ched Evans played a lovely first time pass through to Emil Riis who should have buried his opportunity. 9 times out of 10 a striker should be scoring that at any level. Perhaps it showed his lack of game time, but even still he should be doing better. Scott Sinclair then had two snatched chances after a good header back from Tom Barkhuizen. Chances were being created, as you would expect with the players on the pitch. It was an improvement. They weren’t taken though, and then a bit of quality from Emiliano Buendia gave Norwich the lead.

Always tough against the leaders

Norwich City are top for a reason. Daniel Farke has had a settled side for the last three seasons, including their solitary one in the Premier League. Todd Cantwell, Teemu Pukki and Buendia are class, and Grant Hanley marshalled the defence excellently. Once they had the goal, they made it very difficult for Preston to get back in the game. They controlled the game and Preston struggled for chances in the second half. Having said that, North End tend to be good against the top teams at Deepdale, and have often got great results, such as two years ago when Norwich were promoted from this league but Preston still won 3-1.

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You can’t beat a late goal

4 minutes added time were up when Ryan Ledson picked up the ball on the halfway line. He had to get the ball right, he had to send it forward straight away. He launched it to Brad Potts who controlled it well with his back to goal, and surrounded by Norwich players. He managed to turn and get a shot away which took a slight deflection and flew passed Tim Krul. The celebrations were delirious.

Everyone ran towards Frankie McAvoy and Paul Gallagher jumping all over each other. Daniel Iversen was involved too and it showed the togetherness of the team. Something that might have waned under Alex Neil but has been rediscovered in the last two weeks.

A crucial point

There’s no doubt that the 95th minute equaliser from Brad Potts is huge. Preston have been looking over their shoulder after some poor form of late. A point in McAvoy’s first game in charge gives them something to build on. Tough games are ahead, but the team pushed for the goal until the very end. It will be a huge relief for them to gain something from this game. If they can do it against the league leaders then they can do it against anyone.

As I mentioned, the togetherness is there, it means a lot to the lads to end the bad form, and they want to be successful as a team. It’s hard to say at this stage how much McAvoy has changed, but there was more belief on Friday.

You can only imagine the scenes in the Town End with fans inside Deepdale when Potts scored the equaliser. A very Good Friday indeed!

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