Leeds United 1-1 Preston North End: Three Things We Learnt

Mighty midfield.

Pearson, Browne and Potts were an outstanding trio in the middle of the park at Elland Road.

Not only were they interchangeable, but they caused Leeds endless problems with their running, tackling and assertiveness.

Brad Potts imposed himself on the game, forcing mistakes and getting on the ball. Alan Browne ran and ran and ran. Oh, and he also finished off a sweeping team move with a sumptuous goal. Ben Pearson was his usual self, moving the ball quickly and muting any danger.

In the opening half an hour, Leeds looked stuck in a tactical time warp, while Preston pressed incessantly and confused their “superior” opponents with their tactical fluidity.

PNE dispelled the myth that you have to stack players behind the ball to beat Leeds United.

PNE’s rampant midfield got stuck in and this was exhibited beautifully on the 22nd minute.

Seani Maguire initiated the transition with a crunching tackle, before a neat bit of interplay led to a clinical Pearson through ball being flicked on to Browne, who took a touch before arrowing the ball into the bottom corner.

In the words of Alan Partridge, “that was liquid football.”

Proving our worth.

Last season, Preston were beaten four times by this season’s top two – Leeds and West Brom.

This season, PNE have more than matched them both.

It’s a sign of notable improvement and proves that North End can go toe to toe with anyone in the Championship.

It took Leeds United two last ditch goals to earn just a point against Preston.

And against West Brom, PNE came tantalisingly close to taking the lead, before the Baggies stole the headlines with a scandalous penalty kick that won them the game. The less said about that the better.

The season has just passed its halfway point and with Alex Neil’s men sitting in 6th, they need to have second place locked in their sights.

Old guard stepping up.

In the close season, many fans cast doubts over the futures of Tom Clarke and Paul Huntington at Preston North End.

All good things must come to an end and all that.

Well, the veteran defenders have broken the fourth wall and told the fans that they can still perform at the apex of Championship football.

Prior to this season, Paul Huntington’s last game for PNE was on January 12, 2019.

Injury woes gave the Cumbrian Cannavaro an opportunity and against West Brom, Huntington returned with a point to prove.

Winning five out of six duels and losing no aerial battles, Huntington was dominant.

This pattern of defensive dominance has continued over the course of December, and Alex Neil will have a tough decision to make when Patrick Bauer returns to full fitness.

It would be deeply unfair to displace Paul Huntington on the basis of his current form.

Another member of the old guard, Tom Clarke, hasn’t quite hit the heights of Huntington, but in the last two games, the 32-year-old has shown important strength at the back.

Despite his lack of mobility, Clarke is an adept tackler and brute in the air.

Against Cardiff, Clarke won 11 duels and 8 aerials. And against Leeds, the fullback won the most tackles in the game (5).

In times of crisis, it is vital that Alex Neil can call on Clarke and Huntington and know both of them can perform consistently.