A last minute own goal gave Preston North End a 1-1 draw in a fiercely contested Lancashire Derby against Blackburn Rovers. A point did neither side any favours in their hunt for a top six finish, but it was a fair result to the end to end game.
Sammie Szmodics had given Rovers the lead with 10 minutes left, before North End made the most of a tame shot from Ryan Hedges in the last minute. The winger went for a chip instead of trying to find the corner, and it was an easy catch for Freddie Woodman who could then launch the ball up the pitch.
Brad Potts did well to win the header, before Liam Delap hit a low ball into the box which was diverted into the net by Dominic Hyam much to the delight of the home fans in Deepdale.
Only two games left to enjoy Alvaro Fernandez
Man of the match was rightly given to Alvaro Fernandez after yet another energetic, committed performance from the former Real Madrid youth player. He is a joy to watch and is so confident on the ball going forward. He kept Sorba Thomas quiet in the first half so much so that he was subbed off at half time.
He has been a key attacking threat for us all season, and it would be great to see him get a goal in Lilywhite colours before the season is out. He showed his passion on Wednesday night in the lead up to the scuffle between North End and Swansea and you can tell how much he cares about this club.
Everyone knows we needed to win on Saturday, and Alvaro looked disappointed we couldn’t managed to get the three points. He was the last one off the pitch after applauding all the fans, and had a huge smile on his face as the Alan Kelly Town End sung his name. Nailed on to win Young Player of the Season, it will be an emotional send off for all involved after the last game of the season against Sunderland.
Onomah can be a key player in this team for years to come
A priority for this summer has to be to give Josh Onomah a long term contract. He arrived on a free transfer from Fulham in January and a couple of months in it looked like it may be a pointless signing. He wasn’t getting any time on the pitch or even featuring for the reserves. We have plenty of options in the centre of midfield as well so it didn’t seem to make sense.
Queue injuries to Alan Browne and Ali McCann and Onomah has really stepped up to the plate now. He changed the game against Queens Park Rangers after coming on at half time, before a strong showing in his first satart for the club against Reading.
He’s very different to our other midfielders. He’s strong, and direct with his play. In the first half on Saturday he picked up the ball on the right side of the srea. Many players would look to play the ball back under pressure from a defender, but Onomah quickly turned and played the ball into Tom Cannon who came very close to scoring with his first time effort.
He almost acts as a target man in midfield. He holds the ball up very well, and will often turn his defender with ease to continue the attack. He helps us get the ball up the pitch quicker and keep it there, which has been something we have been serious lacking prior to his arrival.
He may have other offers in the summer, but it looks like he has settled within the group, and it would make sense to extend his stay here.
Preston’s forgotten man puts in solid display
Patrick Bauer has endured a difficult season, effectively being sixth choice centre-back in this squad. It’s a huge change of fortunes for a player who when fit was often one of the first names on the teamsheet in his first three years at the club.
In his first year at the club he started 41 league games. His second season was cut short by a major injury, before returning last season to start 34 league games. Saturday’s match was just his second league start of the season. Unsurprisingly he gave a commanding performance at the back, as we are so used to seeing from the German.
It was a huge game to come in for, but he handled it well. He kept the Blackburn forwards quiet, and their goal only came once he was taken off and Preston had changed shape.
Bauer still has one year left on his contract, but with Jordan Storey, Liam Lindsay, Andrew Hughes and Bambo Diaby all under contract for at least another year too, he may look elsewhere for first-team football. But he showed why he has always been a reliable player in his four years at the club, and Ryan Lowe hailed him after the game.
Delap finally delivers something
I criticised Liam Delap in midweek after he started the game against Swansea but didn’t offer anything at all. With no other strong attacking options on the bench he was the last throw of the dice on Saturday. He came on to join Troy Parrott and Tom Cannon in attack, playing out wide.
I’ve failed to see exactly what Delap’s strongest attributes are so far, but he will have enjoyed his part in the equaliser against Rovers after a difficult season for him first at Stoke and then Preston.
After Brad Potts’ flicked the header on from Woodman’s long kick, Delap held off his defender, turned them before sprinting forward. He made the right choice in drilling the ball into the box rather than a floaty cross. There’s always a chance it can take a wicked deflection and that’s exactly what happened with Dominic Hyam diverting the ball past Aynsley Pears.
A big moment for Delap and two more games to hopefully deliver the goods as well.
Players knew that the opportunity has almost gone
It will take a miracle to see Preston sneak into the top six now. But a couple of months ago, no one would have thought it would even come down to the last couple of games of the season. The Championship is a funny league, and it is impossible to predict.
We came into form at the right time, but ultimately we haven’t been able to take enough points off the teams in the top half of the table. The togetherness of the team has been a highlight from this season, and that has been evident in the last minute goals in the last two games at Deepedale.
The players knew they needed to win on Saturday, and both teams fell to the floor after an exhausting 90 minutes. It’s a young team ending this season, and many players have got vital experience from this campaign. Deep down if we had have somehow made the play-offs I don’t think anyone would have backed us to get promoted, but you can always dream.