Manager Alex Neil had no complaints from his side’s performance and efforts in their 2-2 draw with Norwich City on Saturday afternoon.
The PNE boss’ only disappointment was that their efforts were not rewarded with the win. Speaking to iFollow PNE, he was full of praise for the side.
He said: “I think the only frustration we are taking away from it is that we didn’t win.
“I thought the lads worked extremely hard; I thought we showed some really good quality at times. We made it difficult, we competed really well. I thought we shut them down and stopped them doing what they are good at, because they have some good players and a good squad and they will go on and play really well in certain games and I didn’t think we allowed them to do any of that.
“Our biggest disappointment is that we were well in control of the match, we make an error for the goal and I think it put us in a little lull for five minutes, where we didn’t make passes and we started to turn it a little bit too often and then I thought we found a bit of composure and we made a great move for the second goal - which was terrific – and we put it away and we were really confident.
“We were bright going into half-time. In the second half we started really well, again were on the front foot and I didn’t really have any complaints in the match.
“They changed their system and we matched them up, like we did against Swansea, when we were particularly good second half doing that – we discussed it before the game, because it is twice we have played them and they have done exactly the same thing, so we were prepped and we knew what was coming and I think the only thing that changed for me today, was that because we were not chasing the game, like we were against Swansea when we were really aggressive, we started to sink a little bit – particularly in the wing back area – and that’s why I made a couple of changes, to try and bring fresh impetus, so we could just go and play higher and have two fresh lads in behind, who could mop those spaces up.
“And not only that, we had lads going down with cramp left, right and centre; they had worked so hard today that their legs were running on empty.
“The frustration is that in the second half, there were two decisions that didn’t go in our favour. Scott Sinclair should have had the lad sent off; he was clean through on goal and the lad came the wrong side of him and took him out – if that’s the other side, I think that’s a sending off.
“Then their second goal, I thought he handballed it. He certainly led with him arm. I need to have a look at it back, but it ends up in the back of the net, which is disappointing, because – apart from Pukki’s shot across the front post – they didn’t really have a chance where you thought they should have scored.”
The gaffer had a lot to deal with in the time leading up to the game, losing Daniel Johnson through injury on Friday and then Jayden Stockley due to Covid-isolation reasons just hours before the game, but he felt the players adapted well.
“Me and the lads have been together quite a while now, so they know how we work,” he continue. “When Jayden is in the team, we flip things a little bit and change it up, to accommodate how we are going to play with him – whether it is pressing or whether it is turning the ball up to him and I thought he was well-suited to this game and he would have played, but I thought the lads adapted to the match, losing him and losing DJ late in the day yesterday, and I thought they adapted great.
“I thought they put their bodies on the line and the thing I said to them after the match was that I could have no complaints about what any of them offered up today, I thought they were terrific and we just didn’t manage to win the game.
“They will be disappointed, I am disappointed for them, because their performance deserved to win the match.
“Our mindset at the moment is determination to make sure we haven’t had another one where we have played well and not won the match, but the lads today have given everything and that’s all you can ask.”
Despite the whole team playing well, the former Canaries manager reserved praise for two of his midfield, adding: “I thought [Ryan Ledson] and Alan Browne had good energy and got about the pitch. I though Alan ran his socks off, Ryan was very aggressive and had some good use of the ball, summed up by the second goal, with that ball he punctured into Scott – so they were excellent.
“It was a good performance to isolate only a couple of players, because I thought there were a number of players today who were very, very good.”
And the game, played out in front of 1,000 fans for the first time since March, was something Alex was delighted with: “[The fans being back in] definitely made a difference. I didn’t think there were any lulls in the game. A lot of the stadiums have been soulless.
“There are natural lulls in the game, because there is no atmosphere in the stadiums and I didn’t think that was the case today, so it made a big difference.”