Simon Grayson was encouraged by his team’s performance against Crewe Alexandra, but was left to rue a number of gilt edge chances which his players squandered.
The Lilywhites dominated for almost the entirety of the match, but they left without any reward after they failed to capitalise on several clear cut chances.
Speaking to PNE.Com in the wake of the defeat Grayson said: “You can’t fault what the players have done out there again today, they have worked hard, won a lot of second balls.
“I think we dominated; we didn’t allow Crewe to get into their passing routine that they are well renowned for.
“I thought there were some good individual performances, we just have to be a bit more ruthless in both boxes to win matches. When you look at the number of opportunities we had, the amount of possession we had, we done enough to win the game.
“I said that after the last two games as well against Orient and Portsmouth on Friday night, so we have had opportunities today and in our previous two games that some clubs won’t have all season.
“We had some good opportunities, we are just not being ruthless enough in the 18 yard box and anticipating things like a ball into the box where someone wins the first header and we don’t react quick enough to the second ball.
“We had some great chances to get in front and build on that from thereon.
“You can’t fault the players for their work and their effort and their commitment because they certainly showed that today.
“When you look at the number of chances we have had and they have been clear-cut chances, Graham Cummins in the first half and others in the second half, it just shows you that we are getting into the right areas, but we don’t have that ruthless streak to just finish those off.
“It probably epitomised the last three games when Lee Holmes strike hits the post with the keeper nowhere near it, so that probably sums us up over the last three games, but at least we are getting in there and creating those opportunities.
“We limited Crewe to very few opportunities, but it’s what you do in both boxes, they got an opportunity and scored and we haven’t taken ours.
“You’d be more concerned if we had not been creating the chances.”
As time ticked down, North End threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Alex as they went in search of the equaliser, but they were denied by some excellent goalkeeping, last ditch defending and I large slice of misfortune – in particular when Lee Holmes’ stunning 30 yard drive cannoned of the inside of the post and rebounded to safety.
Discussing the final few minutes of the match the gaffer added: “That just summed up the whole afternoon, even at the end there, the keeper Alan Martin has made a fantastic save from Jack King although he was offside, but that just summed it up.
“We just kept missing them opportunities and we threw everything at them.
“We played a sort of diamond shape at the back end of the game and we threw Paul Huntington up there and tried to get as many bodies in and around them, so we tried to do enough things to win the game.
“Unfortunately what matters was scoring that goal and we didn’t manage to do that today.”
Keith Keane captained the Lilywhites today for the first time and he led by example throughout, with some crunching tackles and his ability to win the ball back in the centre of midfield.
“He was very good,” said Simon when asked about Keane’s performance. “On Friday night we put him in there and it wasn’t just his goal that allowed me to keep him in their today, it was his all-round performance and he has built off that today.
“I made him captain because he can lead by example and he certainly did, he won a lot of second balls, kept the ball alive, keep the ball’s simple to the more flair players as such, but he was one who was very good for us today.”