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Thread: Preston 0 United 1 - report

  1. #1
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    Preston 0 United 1 - report

    After despair seven days previously; things turned around again at the top of the Championship as United ground out a win at Deepdale and saw rivals Leeds a similarly narrow game at Birmingham. United go back into second place with just six games to play. United were not at their best first half and maybe went into the break with a slightly undeserved lead with David McGoldrick reacting to stab home after John Eganís header hit the bar. The second half the Blades improved and controlled things although Preston had some good chances on the break. The away should have put the game to bed though with Sharp missing two and Stevens also blazing over. In the end the Blades did a professional job and saw things out in front of almost 6,000 Blades fans.

    It was mixed news for United on the injury front as Mark Duffy made it but Jack OíConnell did not, failing a late fitness test. Wilder opted to keep the same formation despite including both Dowell and Duffy, with the former beginning at left wing back and Stevens starting as the left of the three centre backs. Freeman was back on the bench for Marvin Johnson. Preston included both Ben Pearson and the returning Alan Browne and Callum Robinson was also back playing after a long period out injured. United will have been pleased that former nemesisí Daniel Johnstone and Paul Gallagher were not playing, although the latter was on the bench.

    The Blades started on the front foot and Baldock got down the right and as the ball came out, Norwood hit a shot that Rudd bobbled before grabbing at the second attempt. Slowly the home side started to take control though and Pearson busy and the main threat coming down the right-hand side as Preston sought to get at Dowell. Nmecha got away twice and from the second run, Basham had to make one block and Baldock even more crucially a second one as the shot came in that looked goal bound. United were a bit sloppy on the ball and Preston were shading things and the Lillywhites won a corner after Egan had to clear. Baldock was the main threat for United and two excellent runs saw him well placed but, on both occasions, his final ball was poor.

    The first proper chance of the game came when Fleck was careless in possession and the ball was deflected into the path of Robinson who was in on goal, albeit on the angle. His low shot was pushed away by Henderson.

    Nmecha went down as the keeper came out but it seemed a rather theatrical attempt to gain a penalty and rightly the appeals were waved away. Preston were getting a two on one overload down the right side and this continued to cause problems and United were not able to get much of their own passing game going against a fluent Preston side.

    A decent move though from the visitors saw Norwood fire over after some intricate passing. Soon after they were able to get in front. United won a corner and Norwood hit it deep clearly looking for Egan at the back post who was completely unmarked. His looping header was pushed up against the bar by Rudd who made a bit of a mess of it; the ball dropped and McGOLDRICK turned it home from only a few yards.

    Stevens blocked a Maguire effort and then Dowell had a weak shot easily saved. McGoldrick then nearly scored again after good work from Sharp but his shot was blocked just before the half time whistle.

    The second half Preston had a great chance when United were caught on the break and Robinson was played in by Maguire but his shot was poor and straight at Henderson. United were now winning more of the loose balls and passing the ball better. They were clearly playing higher up the field and Norwood and Fleck starting to control things. However, Preston had the next chance with Nmecha swivelling and hitting the side netting.

    However, despite Preston having these two opportunities, United were now the better side and slowly started to create things after good work in the middle of the field saw them get the ball into the front two. Sharp got a bit of fortune as the ball caromed off him and he was through on goal and had time to think about his finish but on his left foot, his effort was tipped over from Rudd. It was a great chance and maybe even better than the Robinson one. Not long after he had another chance as United attacked with numbers again. McGoldrick ran off Sharp who had the ball and he chose to go for goal but his effort as deflected behind. Once again, another good chance.

    Moult was on for Robinson and then just after the hour mark Cranie came on for Dowell as Stevens went back to the left wing back role and soon after he should have settled things. Good work from Basham and Baldock, saw the ball come across and McGoldrick turned it towards goal. The defence completely miskicked and Stevens on his left foot was given a great chance but he blazed over. Gallagher was on for Preston.

    Several key Basham interceptions and galloping runs were a feature of this improved United second half performance. Norwood was switching play very well and United were keeping possession much better. Still they had to be wary of Preston on the break.

    Maguire headed wide from a deep cross and the game was now stretched with Preston clearly going for it with Stockley adding height to the attack and Wilder countered opting to bring Stearman on for Duffy. The defence moved around again with Egan going to the left and Cranie to the right and Basham moving more info midfield.

    A good chance did come when the ball dropped for Gallagher but he fired miles over the bar drawing groans from the home fans who repeated this when the same man floated a free kick behind after a smart foul from Stevens stopped the break.

    The game was now into the final few minutes and United were keeping the ball well and Hogan came on for Sharp. United managed to push the ball into the corners and ran down the clock well as the game went into four minutes of stoppage time. Preston did not threaten much as Stevens won a free kick as a frustrated Browne pushed him over in the corner. A late chance came when Preston won a corner and as it came over Stockley won the header but under pressure nodded a few yards wide as Henderson carefully watched it on its way. Soon after the final whistle went and Unitedís fans celebrated wildly after another twist in the promotion race.

  2. #2
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    .United – Another one we ground out although after a so-so first half where we sat off and invited pressure, we scored and then this picked us up. I actually felt even though chance wise they had maybe 2 or 3 good ones to our 2 or 3 good ones; that we dominated the ball 2nd half and I felt we were the much better side after they had edged the first half. Overall, 1-0 was about right for the way we controlled it after the break. We got closer to them, put them under pressure and when we had it kept it better. Our wing backs got higher up the field, Bash was everywhere and Fleck and Norwood upped things with everything they did. I felt they had both been poor last week and it continued first half at Deepdale but then they really started to be better at getting the ball back, getting their foot in and winning those key tackles. In turn they kept the ball better and more sensibly and this got us higher up the field. Sometimes we laud other teams’ players and Preston have some good midfielder but today proved what a bloody good pair our two are and shows why we are right at the top. Both Fleck and Norwood were excellent second half and stood up and were counted.

    The defence were decent but still gave chances up. Dowell struggled at times in an unfamiliar position and did not look as comfortable as he did v Reading in that position against pace down that side. Baldock did well all game despite his poor final ball. Egan had a mixed game with some good bits and some slack marking and Stevens had a mixed game; he struggled first half but got much better as the game went on and both him and Bash got further up the field. Bash was superb and a times he was everywhere both at the back and going forward. Duffy was poor on the ball and not sure he affected things too much but did work hard and did some of the defensive stuff well and was a different sort of performance by him today. Always good to have him in the team as he can always make things happen although it did not quite happen for him today. The team just dug in and I felt as the game went on that we won our battles both individually and collectively and shaded a tight contest.

    It was odd as we seemed to start as a 5 but then ended up with a 4 at times in the first half but then switched back. He brought Cranie on and then Stearman and juggled things around which concerned me as twice the defence was sifted around to allow people to play in their natural positions but we kept firm. Both Stearman and Cranie made some good interceptions and kept us nice and composed. There was no panic at the end and maybe nerves were greater on the terraces as we all checked our watches!

    Preston did have some chances but other than one blazed over and one into the side netting; we kept a decent shape. For the first time for a while we also started playing neat football again and chances came as a result. Norwood was spraying it about and we got into the last third and caused problems. If Sharp takes his chances then we have a more comfortable final part to the game. McGoldrick worked very hard up top and held it up well. The two centre forwards started to win the ball more and I felt the whole team just upped it after the break. The belief in what we were doing was clear and the fans helped push them on and over the finish line.

    Great scenes at the end as the team celebrated with the away end and as the results filtered in, you sensed what a big afternoon it had been. There will be lots of twists and turns before the end you would think. Norwich are up for me and now it seems with West Brom losing that it is a straight shoot out between us and Leeds for the other spot. We hope that Preston respond and of course Birmingham have got their win out of the way. I said if we matched Leeds results over the two games and were still within two points, we would have a chance after these two games and we will match it now whatever. Leeds have had a little buffer whether it be 2, 3 or 4 points (more a while ago) so be great if we could push it up to say 3 points or 4 points and how they respond. I would not be shocked if things turned again in the week. We have not beaten Brum since we came back up and were poor at St Andrews last season so need another big performance.

    After that we have 5 left and 3 at home. I do think Leeds could drop points to Wednesday, Villa or Brentford before the end and be surprised if they won all three of them. However, we will drop points as well. I worry about Millwall more than Forest as they have some big, awkward players and are very direct. However, I would take our run of fixtures over Leeds – although a talented Stoke side last day with no pressure would cause more problems maybe than a relegated Ipswich – but then we play them the week before of course! I would not want us to go to Stoke and want us to match or better Leeds result but it very much could go to that.

    I expect both us and Leeds to lose 1 or maybe 2 in the run in and it may be 4 wins from 6 could be enough. If we take care of business at home then we have a great chance Why I am looking at games and thinking ahead I do not know – we cannot control it and no-one knows what will happen! It is just about the next game really and nothing will probably happen the way you think it will as the last two weekends have shown. I can’t get this mid-week but will be at Hull and hopefully Stoke so aim to get to all the final five games and going to try and enjoy it no matter what!

    Preston – A side that is packed full of good players and one that no one talks about but they have a bit of everything and been playing really well until they lost last week. Today they started well and had a few chances. They caused us problems down our left and I felt the lad on loan from Man City was very direct and dangerous if a bit wasteful with his end product. We scored and then this took the sting out of it a bit. We saw out the half and then 2nd half after Robinson missed a good chance, I felt we got on top and should have finished the game. They still had 2 or 3 chances but so did we and both teams were wasteful. It was quite an open game though and they will feel a bit unfortunate not to get anything but over the course of the piece, I felt 1-0 to United was about right. They lost control of the midfield second half and I also felt we had much more of the ball. They started to go long more and the decent stuff they played first half kind of stopped.

    They made subs but not sure they made much of an impact really. I felt even though they had some set plays and it was a bit nervy at times, we actually controlled the final part of the game well and they kind of were knocking the ball into the box more in hope than any controlled way.

    Had a really poor start to the season but slowly got up the table and have been on a fantastic run until the last few weeks. Might be tough for them to get in now and of course we hope they get back to winning ways in the week. They have a decent manager who has done will in Scotland and in England at Norwich and now here. His teams play decent football and they have some very underrated players. Browne and Pearson are good ball players and both are tenacious too. Robinson is a talent up top and they have two young centre backs also. Neil alluded to them lacking a bit of experience and it maybe showed a bit today as they started to panic a bit 2nd half. I thought whilst they had chances, they ran out of steam a bit today. Not sure they will quite have enough for them to get in the top 6 and a lot will depend if a few clubs come for their better players in the summer. If they don’t and they can add to the group with that experience, then they will be in the top half again next season I feel.



    Opponent man of the match – Nmecha was dangerous and Dowell struggled to keep with his pace and power first half but he did not quite make the final ball/shot when needed. He was probably still the stand out threat although tried to dive to win a penalty which was disappointing, I thought Pearson and Browne won the 50/50 challenges and had more of the ball as we sat off - but 2nd half this turned around completely. We then got on top and we saw very little of these two on or off the ball.

    Weak link – They have some good forwards but Maguire and Robinson were out of sorts today and Robinson missed two good chances that he should have done better with and for that wins this award. I also thought the two centre backs were poor all game and slowly our front two got on top and held it up. They let Sharp in a few times and Davies miskicked terribly when Stevens then blazed over. They are two young lads Davies and Storey with lots of potential but felt they got bullied a bit as the game went on; thankfully for us. Fisher the right back made some daft fouls and got caught out second half and pushed back after he had got forward well with Nmecha in the first half. Not sure the keeper will be too happy with his part in the goal but then saved well from Sharp second half.

  3. #3
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    Henderson 7/10 – Solid performance after he had not been at his usual standards the previous week. Caught crosses, made a ***** save early on and was solid when he had to. Most of their efforts were off target though and he only had one proper save to make, I think? Did dither coming for a few through balls – Egan had to kick away when he could have come out. Another away clean sheet.

    Baldock 7.5/10 – Thought he was very good and was up and down all day. First half he was our best player and really surged down the wing. The only issue was that his final ball was not great and he did not pick anyone out when well placed. Continued to play well second half but did not get forward quite as much but then did make one good cross that led to a chance for Stevens. He was really energetic and showed great fitness and defensively did what he had to, including a key block at the start of the game.

    Stevens 7/10 – First half felt he was poor and actually not close enough to Dowell and we had a big gap down that side as they attacked at will down there. He was a bit careless in his marking too. He improved a lot after the break and was a bit more sure in what he did and when he went to left wing back looked more comfortable and got forward well too and helped us keep the ball.

    Egan 7/10 – Like Stevens felt at times he did not mark tightly and if they had been better with their finishing (Robinson) they could have made us pay. He did start to get better as the game went on too and felt started to win headers and make blocks. He of course made the goal with a header at goal that the keeper made a mess of but he kept it in play and got it on target.

    Basham 8/10 – My man of the match. Never stopped running all game. Started off centre back and ended up midfield. Often, I had no idea where he was playing as he seemed to be everywhere. Like two men at times. Once he intercepted a through ball and ran forward passed it off and then a few seconds late he was right near their goal down the right-hand side. Decent with the ball too and rarely gave it away. Incredible fitness levels and desire. He summed up our application and desire to win the game today.

    Dowell 5.5/10 – Thought he struggled in the role he played and at times he was all at sea defensively as the lad Nmecha ended up wide right and really ran at him. He did not get much protection down this side. Stuck at it and then started to get forward more and had one shot at goal but this was weak (where is this shooting prowess we heard about – not seen it at all!). Second half he was a bit better but was then taken off as we opted to have a more recognised defender in there.

    Fleck 7/10 – First half he was poor and did not get tight and also gave it away a bit including for their good chance but he improved after the break, started to keep the ball better and was able to penetrate more too. He was just nice and sensible and also got his foot in when he could.

    Norwood 7.5/10 – First half he was not in the game much and sat off. Like with Bristol City last week, we were 10 yards off and did not press and they had most of the ball. After the break he improved immeasurably and with Bash was our best player after they came back out. He got on the ball, used it sensibly left and right and played some lovely passes. His class started to show on the ball but he also dug in and did the little things. Need him to play like for full games as after the break felt he ran the show for long spells.

    Duffy 6/10 – Poor today with the ball but surprisingly decent off it. He gave it away a lot and did not really give us the threat we would have wanted. Felt he was not close enough to the strikers first half and other than one decent cross, gave it away quite a bit too. He did work hard though and did not stop running. He actually chased back and made a few interceptions second half. He has not played for a while and hopefully getting minutes under his belt will lead to him having a better game at Birmingham.

    Sharp 6.5/10 – First half he was not in the game at all and other than one knock back to McGoldrick, he did not have many touches as the service was poor. After the break he improved and was a nuisance all half. He played on the last man and was a threat and actually had two chances but he missed them both. You would have expected him to take at least one but he took a bit too long on the first and did not dink it or drill it and was a nice height. He worked hard for the team but did miss chances to seal the game.

    McGoldrick 7/10 – Scored the goal and was Jonny/Didsy on the spot! Very similar to the goal at Wigan actually reacting first on a corner that was not cleared. First half he saw more of the ball than Sharp but we did not link well and the team had almost three compartments. We started to change this gradually and he came deeper and linked well and we got players moving down the wings that could feed off him. He put a real shift in after the break and he chased defenders down quite a lot so they did not have an easy ride.

    Subs –

    Cranie – Steady when he came on. He played wide left for a bit in the three, then switched to wide right when Stearman came on. Made a few key blocks and just was nice and calm

    Stearman – As above. Played in the centre which worried me as wanted Egan there but they chose to put him in the middle and attack the high balls and counter the threat of Stockley. Did enough to restrict them and they only had one big chance, the Gallagher one which I think came via a fortunate deflection.

    Hogan – Did not get long and I may get criticised for this but I need to see more effort even in hardly any game time. To see McGoldrick and Sharp chasing every lost cause for nearly 90 minutes and he comes on and is kind of sauntering about. Maybe it is just me, but I need to see more from him. I will be glad to see Madine back as he can give us more of a out ball if needed and think he will play a bigger role than Hogan.

    Wilder 8/10 – We won 1-0 and it was another really solid away performance. Our defensive record away since Villa has been sensational and we have had players out too also. Today our best defender was missing and a key part of how we play. The Dowell and Duffy picks did not really work in terms of individual performances but both kind of did a job. He made the changes this week and went with Cranie (no Johnson even on the bench which was interesting) to shore things up. I sensed even though we led, he may have had words at the break as we played noticeable higher up the field. They got an early chance but after this I felt we controlled things and started to get closer to them when they had it and in turn pressured them to turn it over. When we had it, we were calmer and more composed in possession and actually if Sharp takes a chance then we would have won it comfortably. Overall, though another gritty and workmanlike performance and we saw snippets of decent football coming back too which is promising for the final run in.

  4. #4
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    Referee – He was excellent I felt and one of the best of the season. Gavin Ward let a few meaty tackles go early and I liked that. He tried to keep things flowing but got most of the decisions both ways correct. Just let the game go and made sure it was not about him. I noticed he was always up with play too and gave a lot of throw ins or decisions that assistants would normally give but sometimes when they are right at the other end would not always spot. He booked Dowell rightly for a late tackle as they got away and then did the same for Pearson. Browne got booked I think for a foul on Stevens also near the end which he had done a few times so was more an accumulation. One odd one was he booked Gallagher for taking a free kick too soon. He did not give the penalty when Nmecha went down and actually could have booked him for a pretty outrageous dive.

    The main gripe I had with the officials were not spotting that the keepers kit was almost identical to United’s away kit – it was more green but ridiculous he was allowed to wear this. They at least made him change at half time but should have done it earlier in the game or before it started really. Basic stuff really that would not even be allowed at park level.

    Crowd/Fans/Day Out – Another great away day…NOT ruined by the game/result! I need too try and get to more United away games after years of having some brilliant days out ruined by the performance/results.

    I have been to Preston so many times and never seen a goal or a win! I seem to have missed the odd ones we have done well in and kind of gave up going so bad was my record there. I think I saw about 4 or 5 2-0 or 3-0 defeats on the bounce back in the days of Heath/Warnock. So great to finally end that hoodoo. It is that long since I went there though that they had only 3 sides with an unused terrace and rickety old stand on one side. They have replaced this with a smart smaller stand than the other three and is a bit odd as it has a gantry at the back that looks like it should be for boxes or executive seating but there is nothing there other than a cameraman. Odd. Are they planning to do something with it and if not why stop the seats to build that when you could have had a few more rows. It is a nice smart ground and the stands are quite steep so you get a good view no matter what. Always like the way they have the Preston legends picked out in the seat designs too (one of them Alan Kelly’s Dad). Nice to see Ian Bryson there and did a speech at half time although no one could hear him.

    The ground is a fair bit from the centre as we found when walking along that long road that seemed to go on forever. Had a look at the Tom Finney statue and once inside the facilities are fairly decent although does annoy me that hundreds of fans choose to stand and smoke in the toilet, blocking people trying to use the toilet for what it is for and ensuring you reek when you come out and are subjected to a mini coughing fit also!

    Inside the ground, we were sat right to the left of the stand so had a good view across on the diagonal. The fans were in good voice and the support was excellent. The fans really willed them on at the end and celebrated every tackle/throw as we saw it out. Great to see the celebrations on full time as the team and Wilder came to salute the huge away following.

    What struck me was how relaxed the fans were after the game. Nerves may have been shredded during it and at the end but in the pubs and on the train, many were just quite calm. It is very much that everything is a bonus now and whilst it would be disappointing not to go up after such a great season; you sense the fans are just enjoying it. There is a quiet belief we can do it and it is getting closer now and a real possibility but if we don’t, nobody could really criticise the team or manager. We just have to give it everything the last 6 as a team, both on and off the field. We will make the playoffs now so we need to just go for it every game.

    The rest of the day was good too. We got to Manchester and chose to have a few hours here. We had a look in the Classic Football Shirts shop on Deansgate which is very good. Some of the shirts are superb but eye wateringly expensive. I opted not to buy a £150 Fiorentina 7UP 90’s shirt and we went on to have a few more drinks. Sat outside in the Northern Quarter and did some people watching in the sun as we had a couple of lovely pints of Beavertown Gamma Ray. We grabbed a bit of lunch on the run and got the train into Preston arriving around 1.15pm ish. We went to a nice little bar called the Otter’s Pocket and then had the long way to the ground. We even had an ice cream on the way the weather was that nice. After the game we returned to the same bar for a quick pint and then was back in Manchester before 7pm. Found a tremendous bar called NQ64 I the Northern Quarter – which is basically the UK version of Barcade (similar bar in America – Brooklyn) where there is basically old school arcades all around a bar. We played NBA Jam, Turbo Outrun 2, Streetfighter, Mortal Kombat, Track and Field and Golden Axe. We could not get on Sensible Soccer sadly! Great little place that was packed and could have stayed here longer but we had to get back and hopped on the 9.30ish train and I was back home for 11pm. Feeling it a bit this morning….fuzzy head but the table and the results means it was all worthwhile.

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