It was promotion-chasing Watford’s turn to visit Deepdale last night, with both the Hornets and North End coming into the game off the back of victories.
Watford hit Bristol City for 6 on Saturday, and would certainly have been in the mood for goals against North End, who saw victory on Friday night against Lancashire neighbours Blackburn Rovers with a fine 2-1 win.
Alex Neil made two changes from Friday night, Jayson Molumby and Scott Sinclair coming in for Ryan Ledson and Greg Cunningham, the former missing out with a knock. Seeing this, North End fans quickly learned that Neil had reverted to a back four, rather than a back 3 which saw Cunningham and Browne act as wing-backs against Rovers. Something that, in my opinion, worked very well.
The game started out pretty even, North End and Watford seeing plenty of the ball. It was just after 10 minutes when Ben Whiteman managed to pick out Ched Evans. A magnificent through ball over the top picked the striker out but Evans failed to capitalise and blasted over, a real let off for Watford but showed promising signs for North End.
In my opinion, Evans had another solid game, managing to cause some distress to Watford’s backline, showing his physical presence once again and his eye for laying the ball off and trying to bring his teammates into play.
You’d have thought, had Evans finished his chance early on, North End could have managed to see out a 1-0 win. However, Watford continued to sniff around the PNE box and looked to utilise their wingers to get it into the box hoping to make something of it.
It wasn’t goalless for long though, four minutes into the second half Watford were awarded a penalty after what looked like Tom Barkhuizen sticking out a leg and catching João Pedro. The referee wasted no time in pointing to the spot. A very avoidable penalty in my opinion. The ball was bouncing around and when you decide to stick a leg in, it’s always going to be a risky one.
Pedro went on to take the penalty, cooly slotting into the bottom left corner, another penalty that Daniel Iversen has dived the right way for but was unable to save.
The game fell pretty flat from then on. Alex Neil made a substitution shortly after the visitors took the lead, bringing Barkhuizen off for Everton loanee Anthony Gordon, coming back into the squad after missing the Rovers’ game due to a knock. There’s no hiding from the fact that Tom Barkhuizen didn’t have the greatest game and I think Tom knew that himself looking at his body language as he came off the field.
North End seemed to come back to life again inside the last 5 minutes, giving Watford no room to breathe on the ball. We were swarming like hornets if you will, around the visitors’ box, looking for a way in but Watford didn’t give in and defended well for the most part.
A good chance came to Emil Riis in the dying minutes. Anthony Gordon whipped in a free-kick from the right and Emil won his header and the rebound fell kindly to him but his deflected shot went wide of the post.
It was another game where North End failed to take advantage of early opportunities and ultimately paid the price in what was, for the most part, a pretty even game. The only goal coming from a fair penalty in which PNE first-team coach Frankie McAvoy had no complaints about.
I thought Tom Cleverley and Craig Cathcart were two standout players for the visitors last night. Former Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley ran the midfield really well, having no real trouble on the ball and managing to keep Watford’s flow going.
Craig Cathcart was a rock at the back, even just from watching the 90 minutes last night it just shows how crucial it is to have good chemistry with your fellow defenders and goalkeeper. This was evident as the Watford centre half was often comfortable leaving any balls over the top to the keeper to deal with.
It’s Lindsay and Storey again with another good performance for me, the pair worked really well together. Very similar to Friday night, both winning many aerials and duels, they look like a pair that could have a good future together at the heart of our defence, for the rest of the season at least.
Finally, make sure you give the latest episode of the podcast a listen below.