A superb performance in two different parts saw the ten man Lilywhites pick up an excellent point at Elland Road.
Ben Pearson saw red on the hour mark for two yellow cards – the first of which was extremely disputable – but beforehand Alex Neil’s side had taken the game to their hosts and almost snatched what would have been a deserved win in injury time, when Josh Harrop – making his competitive debut for PNE as a second half substitute – hit the bar.
It was a display that really impressed. For an hour, North End – wearing their new green third strip for the first time – were much the better side, Alan Browne twice having good chances following hard work by Jordan Hugill, the only change from the opening day win over Sheffield Wednesday, leading the line with Sean Maguire dropping to the bench.
And it was only after Scott Duncan had decided to send Pearson for an early bath that the Yorkshiremen tested their visitors and when he was called into action, goalkeeper Chris Maxwell was in excellent form, denying Chris Wood with one outstanding stop.
The two teams felt their way into the game in the opening 20 minutes, in front of a boisterous 32,000-plus crowd, but it was the greens who showed first, Tom Barkhuizen collecting a loose ball from Alioski in the middle of the Leeds half before driving forward and unleashing a curling right footed effort from 25 yards just inches past German stopper Wiedwald’s left hand upright on 26 minutes.
They then had a superb chance to go in front just after the half hour mark when Hugill’s pressure forced a mistake from Pontus Jansson, allowing the North End No.9 to drive along the byline and pull the ball back for Browne, but home skipper Liam Cooper got in an excellent position to block the Irishman’s shot from eight yards out.
And 90 seconds into the second half it was the same combination that had a gilt-edged chance for the first goal of the game when again Hugill’s persistence won the ball near the right touchline and drove 40 yards into the box, before a reverse ball back from the byline to Browne, but the No.8’s low shot towards the right hand bottom corner lacked power and Leeds’ summer-signed ’keeper claimed low to his left.
Growing up a Leeds supporter, Tommy Spurr would have loved to have scored at Elland Road and on 53 minutes he nearly did when Daniel Johnson’s cross from a left wing free kick found him unmarked 12 yards out, but Cameron Borthwick-Jackson got in a fine block to concede a corner.
On 57 minutes captain Greg Cunningham did have the ball in the back of the net, with a superb finish on the stretch with his right foot after another Johnson free kick, this time 25 yards out level with the left hand edge of the box, but assistant referee Chris Akers’ flag was up early, right in front of the travelling PNE fans for an offside.
But with 60 minutes on the clock Pearson was given his marching orders for a foul mid-way inside his own half – a second bookable offence according to referee Scott Duncan. If the initial half, his first booking was very harsh having slid in and taken the ball with no contact on a player and the second caution was equally for a nothing tackle in the middle of the pitch – the No.4 could feel very hard done to.
With 17 minutes to go Chris Maxwell made a wonderful one-on-one save to keep the game goalless. Pablo Hernandez had threaded United’s spearhead Chris Wood clean through on goal and he bore down on the box, only for a fully at stretch Maxwell to put out a left hand and push the ball away; and Cunningham did well to mop up in front of Ezgjan Alioski, who looked the more likely to reach the loose ball first.
Into the final seven minutes and Maxwell was earning his wage; a double save from Wood and Dallas after substitute Saiz’s ball in from the right as the home side looked to press home their man advantage.
With three minutes to go there was a chance at the other end to snatch a late goal for the men in green as Harrop, on for Tom Barkhuizen, did well to win the ball and Johnson drove into the left side of the box before drilling a cross or shot into the six yard box that went through a crowd of players and somehow wide of the right hand post.
In the final moments of the game, with over six minutes added on by the match officials, Harrop again broke down the left hand side, ran 40 yards and then smashed a shot that beat Wiedwald, but crashed off the cross bar, but the game remained goalless with a much deserved point in front of a boisterous travelling following who stood to a man to give credit to their players as they returned to the dressing room after the game.
Leeds United line-up: Wiedwald, Ayling, Borthwick-Jackson (Dallas, 82), Cooper (c), Roofe (Saiz, 61) Wood, Alioski, O’Kane, Jansson, Hernandez, Phillips (Vieira, 61). Subs not used: Peacock-Farrell, Anita, Dallas, Shaughnessey, Ekuban.
PNE line-up: Maxwell, Fisher, Cunningham (c), Pearson, Huntington, Spurrr, Barkhuizen (Harrop, 65), Browne (Gallagher, 90), Hugill, Johnson, Robinson. Subs not used: Hudson, Vermijl, Horgan, Davies, Maguire.
Attendance: 32,880 (697 PNE Fans)
Referee: Mr S Duncan