Preston North End left it late to snatch all three points against a Huddersfield Town side that will be questioning how they didn’t win the game at Deepdale, never mind lose it.
Although it was far from the most glamourous fixture of the weekend, it was an entertaining match for the most part. Simon Grayson had vowed that his side would look to attack his former club and this opened up the match leading to an end-to-end encounter.
Huddersfield dominated both the possession and territory as they camped in Preston’s half, but the hosts still offered a genuine threat, with the vast majority of their opportunities coming from long balls and set-pieces that were causing the West Yorkshire club serious problems.
The second half continued in a similar fashion to the first, as both sides were willing to commit men forward and left both sides vulnerable and exposed to the counter attack.
It took until the 80th minute for the first goal of the game, when Nahki Wells ran on to Jamie Paterson’s lofted pass and poked it past Anders Lindegaard to give the West Yorkshire club a deserved lead.
The lead, however, lasted only three minutes as Preston became more adventurous with nothing to lose. After winning a corner, it landed kindly at Paul Gallagher’s feet, and his low volley was cruelly deflected in off Huddersfield’s captain Joel Lynch and past Jed Steer.
After the equaliser, only one side looked like they would go on to win. The final goal did come when Calum Woods’ cross found Alan Browne and his header agonisingly squirmed past goalkeeper Steer.
There was yet to be some controversy as Huddersfield had one final chance. A corner was flicked on by Lynch at the near post, it found Jonathan Hogg at the far post but his effort was somehow cleared off the line. There were claims that the ball had crossed the line, however without goal-line technology in the Championship, the officials didn’t have conclusive evidence to give the goal.
Here’s three things we learned from yesterday’s intriguing encounter at Deepdale…
1) War of attrition
From the beginning of the game, it was clear that the midfield battle was crucial.
Huddersfield were clearly winning the battle early on as the energy and running of Hogg was not allowing Preston’s midfield to have time on the ball, and this was forcing the Preston defence to play long balls early when Huddersfield’s defensive line were set to deal with it easily.
Phillip Billing particularly impressed as he took control of the opening proceedings and dominated with his physicality.
All of the early running was coming through Huddersfield’s midfield and Billing was at the heart of some of Huddersfield’s best passing moves.
As the game progressed, fitness became an issue for Huddersfield and it allowed Preston’s midfield to grow into the game. This can be seen by how the influence of Gallagher and Browne increased which fuelled the Lilywhites comeback.
However, despite the attritional feel to the game, it didn’t hamper or hinder the quality of the play.
2) Huddersfield are yet again left to rue missed chances
Both Huddersfield’s fans and playing staff will be dumbfounded how they lost this game.
With 20 attempts at goal and 63% possession, they dominated for large proportions of the game.
Wells, Paterson, Joe Lolley, Harry Bunn, and even Tommy Smith were all guilty of spurning golden opportunities. Particularly in the second half, there was a number of excellent counter attacking opportunities, but poor decision making and a lack of composure in front of goal once again proved costly for the West Yorkshire side.
One of the main reasons for Huddersfield’s inability to put the game to bed was Lindegaard. The goalkeeper, on loan from Manchester United, showed his Premier League experience and quality to pull off a string of spectacular saves that kept Preston in the game.
One of the key saves of the game came towards the end of the first half, as he tipped a cross out of the danger area which was destined to fall to Bunn at the back post.
Another memorable moment for the goalkeeper was an excellent double save to prevent both Lolley and Paterson from getting on the score sheet in the second half.
3) Preston’s guile and determination are rewarded
Although David Wagner’s side were dominant for large parts of the game, Grayson’s men were rewarded for their guile and determination to stay in the game when they were struggling to sustain possession and maintain their usual excellent defensive shape.
The Preston line was broken on a number of occasions by Huddersfield. Paterson, Bunn and Lolley were having a lot of success getting in behind, but Preston’s defence did excellently to make recovery tackles and keep Huddersfield out for as long as they did.
The grit and determination, particularly defensively, to battle for every header and to put in tackles at every opportunity was impressive to watch.
Even more impressive was how Preston’s defensive personnel were willing to throw their body on the line to block multiple shots, and it was ultimately rewarded in the end with two goals and three points.
Preston fans and Huddersfield fans… What were your highlights of Saturday’s match? Can Huddersfield bounce back from this defeat? How high do you think Preston North End can finish? Let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!