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Match Reports

Preston North End 1 Aston Villa 1

29 December 2018

Preston North End took a point in their final game of 2018, which given they had 11 first team players out and finished the game with a 16 and 17 on the pitch, was an outstanding effort from Alex Neil’s men.

Preston North End took a point in their final game of 2018, which given they had 11 first team players out and finished the game with a 16 and 17 on the pitch, was an outstanding effort from Alex Neil’s men.
The PNE goal came with Lukas Nmecha getting his first for the club after Daniel Johnson’s cross from the right, equalising Tammy Abraham’s first half header and it was no more than the home side deserved from a game where they perhaps should also have had two penalties and had a goal ruled out that replays showed was not offside.
With only 12 fit senior outfield players, the manager had little choice in his starting XI, Jordan Storey and Ryan Ledson in for the injured Alan Browne and Ben Davies.
And it was Storey who had a great chance to open the scoring after only two minutes as North End had much the better of the majority of the first half.
A Paul Gallagher corner was pushed out to Paul Huntington by goalkeeper Orjan Nyland, the No.23 heading the ball down for his fellow centre half to strike on the volley, but it crashed against the bar from 12 yards out.
Within a minute came another great chance for the Lilywhites as a brilliant ball over the top by Gallagher sent Tom Barkhuizen in behind, but he couldn’t get the ball to come down and visiting skipper James Chester deflected his lob wide, although referee Geoff Eltringham gave a goal kick!
On the quarter of an hour mark the home side had the ball in the net and it should have countyed. Nmecha ran through a slotted home from Graham Burke’s through-ball, replays showing him onside despite the assistant’s flag on the Invincibles side going up.
Just after the half hour mark a wonderful save by Nyland denied PNE the opener again, after PNE pressure won the ball and former Villan Johnson played a ball over the top that Burke struck sweetly on the volley only for the keeper to make an outstanding stop to push it over. From Gallagher’s resulting corner Huntington headed straight at Nyland from 12 yards out.
But in the final minute of the half the visitors went ahead completely against the run of play, England striker Tammy Abraham heading in from Glenn Whelan’s left-wing corner from six yards out after shrugging off his marker.
After only 30 seconds of the second half Nmecha was sent through by Barkhuizen, his shot beating Nyland, but it came off the inside of the right-hand post away somehow with the Villa’s lead intact.
North End had a very strong shout for a penalty ten minutes into the half when Nyland came out and flattened Tom Barkhuizen in the box in a 50/50 challenge for the ball. The referee looked like he was going to give a foul the visitors way, when the replays looked like a spot kick.
Another penalty shout came two minutes later as Ledson was brought down in the aftermath of Barkhuizen meeting a cross from the left by Johnson, beating Nyland, but Alan Hutton hooking off the line and then the midfielder being hauled down by Conor Hourihane.
But they were deservedly level on 61 minutes and it was Nmecha who grabbed is long-awaited goal!
Some brilliant play saw Barkhuizen send Johnson free in the penalty area, he drove to the byline and then drilled it across the six-yard box where Ahmed Elmohamady slid in and kicked the ball off the North End No.45 and into the Town End goal.
The on loan Manchester City striker was now full of confidence and he broke onto a Gallagher ball from in the centre circle, got to 25 yards out and fizzed a shot that beat Nyland, but also flew an inch past the right-hand upright.
He then got in behind Bree from Ledson’s through ball, the defender lucky not to be carded to trying to foul Nmecha in the run through, but the former Barnsley man recovered just to get a toe on the ball and put the ball out for a corner – but again questions were asked, why no free kick and card.
The pace of the North End forward line was causing problem after problem for the visitors and Lesson again sent Barkhuizen clear. He rounded Nyland and from a tight angle saw his shot come back off the post and back to him, unable to find the target with the follow up.
Referee Eltringham was centre of attention again with 20 minutes to go as Burke was once again scythed down with another tackle that this time finally produced a card and a free kick 30 yards from goal in a right-hand channel.
Another shout for a penalty from the free kick as Andrew Hughes’ shot appeared to come off a hand in the box, with a corner given, although this one was certainly not as clear cut as the previous two decisions that should have gone PNE’s way.
With a minute of normal time remaining substitute Birkir Bjarnason somehow fired over from a yard out and then the same man was denied by Declan Rudd with an strong left hand diving away to palm the ball away.
Scholars Adam O’Reilly and Ethan Walker both came on in stoppage time for North End, the latter, 16, becoming the third youngest player in the club’s history as the game ended with North End still looking for a winner, but they had to settle for a point, which given the circumstances, was one of the results of the season.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Clarke (c) (Fisher, 85), Hughes, Ledson, Storey, Huntington, Barkhuizen, Johnson, Nmecha, Burke (O’Reilly, 90), Gallagher (Walker, 90). Subs not used: Crowe, Fisher, Woods, Simpson, Baxter.
Aston Villa line-up: Nyland, Chester (c), Whelan (Bjarnason, 75), McGinn, Bolasie (Adomah, 68), Hourihane, Bree, Abraham, Hutton, El Ghazi, Almohamady. Subs not used: Bunn, Whelan, Hogan, Davis, Kodjia, Revan.
Attendance: 19,126 (5,629 Aston Villa fans)
Referee: Mr G Eltringham

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