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First Team News

2017/18 Season Review: November

16 June 2018

Leaving a difficult month behind, PNE began November with the first of five games which saw a resurgent Aston Villa visit Deepdale, the Villans aiming to return to the Premier League and they brought with them the Sky cameras.

In what was an unusual game, the contest will be remembered by PNE fans for the lack of defensive options available to manager Alex Neil.

With defensive injuries already racking up, PNE lost two more defenders by half-time, in Calum Woods and Josh Earl, and ended the game with Player of the Season – and midfielder – Alan Browne in the heart of the defence. The defensive crisis peaked at nine unavailable defenders.

First half goals from James Chester and Robert Snodgrass, Chester heading a home the latter’s corner and Snodgrass finishing off a breakaway, gave the Villans a 2-0 win; but injuries continued to play a big part in North End’s form.

A trip to Ipswich was next on the agenda, in a game that North End manager Alex Neil described as 'disappointing'. The defensive crisis was worsened when Darnell Fisher picked up a groin injury, forcing North End into a tenth different back four of the season. Tthe Lilywhites were beaten 3-0 by the hosts.

Ben Pearson had a good chance breaking forward for PNE but Martyn Waghorn bent in a free kick to open the scoring, David McGoldrick then met a deep cross to double the hosts’ advantage with Bersant Celina making it three from a tight angle.

The difficult run of results came to an end with the visit of local opposition Bolton Wanderers. The entire available first team squad was used in this fixture, with just 18 fit first team players available for the clash.

Despite their dominance, PNE were unable to find a goal in a game which saw skipper Tom Clarke make his return after a lengthy spell out injured after damaging his Achilles.

After seven games without a win, North End bounced back in style, kicking off an impressive unbeaten run in the league. A brilliant away performance at Bristol City would kick start it. City were flying in the Play-Off places at the time but were matched up in a 4-4-2 and came off second best. Paul Gallagher opened the scoring, swivelling on a deflected Jordan Hugill shot and firing beyond Frank Fielding.

North End then scored a fantastic second with an incisive breakaway. Hugill made space for Barkhuizen who set off down the right, his low ball across the face of goal was met by Callum Robinson who opened up his body as he slid in and placed the ball into the bottom corner on his weaker side.

Chris Maxwell was keeping the Robins at bay well but in the fourth minute of stoppage time Cauley Woodrow struck a volley past him after numerous ricochets inside the penalty area, that goal only a consolation for the hosts.

The Lilywhites we one the road once again for the next fixture, Alex Neil revisiting Norwich for the first time since he had left the club, and the level of performance was still high.

The first chance came to Josh Murphy who had raced to a ball ahead of Maxwell with Darnell Fisher standing in for his teammate to avert the danger. Fisher made a vital block to prevent the forward a simple tap-in. The host then took the lead; James Maddison arched a free kick over the wall and beyond Maxwell from the left to open the scoring in spectacular fashion.

Not to be outdone, Alan Browne almost matched him. The Irishman pounced on a loose ball running away from goal, chested the ball into the air and hit an overhead kick that had beaten the keeper but not the crossbar.

Paul Gallagher’s corner found the equaliser however, his delivery met by Paul Huntington whose goalward header was tapped in by Tom Barkhuizen, with honours ending even at 1-1.

The month ended with the Lilywhites in 13th, with a six point gap from the Play-Offs but just three points off seventh. With the worst of the injury worries behind us as we headed towards the festive fixtures, the sense of positivity was revitalised at Deepdale as North End built towards a push for the Play-Offs.


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