Report: Preston NE 0 Stevenage 0

Another clean sheet for Stevenage, but goals at the other end are proving hard to come by

Preston NE 0 Stevenage 0

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Stevenage goalkeeper Chris Day pulled off an outstanding save in the dying moments of this match to ensure his side left a gloomy Deepdale with a point safely secured.

It was gloomy not only because of the dark storm clouds over head throughout the 90 minutes, but also because this result, coupled with a recent poor run of results for the home side, saw the Lilywhites leave the pitch to a chorus of boos and their manager, Phil Brown, looking as though he may soon be on his way.

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Things may have been different, of course, had Day been more lead-footed across his line instead of denying Iain Hume what had looked to have been a last-gasp winner, but the dexterous goalkeeper was quick-footed and showed the kind of composure that comes with experience.

It was a game of one half, really, with only Neil Mellor’s shot into the side netting and Phil Edwards’ effort straight at Thorsten Stuckmann being of any note in first half, but it was a half which began in rather bizarre circumstances as Graham Alexander took a knock 14 seconds in and had to be replaced after just three minutes after he had hobbled off the pitch.

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For Stevenage Lawrie Wilson had been asked to fill in at right back for the injured Ronnie Henry, but it was on the other side of the defence were Mellor snuck in behind the Stevenage back line only to hit the side of Day’s goal with only the goalkeeper to beat.

Edwards, such a good proposition in the middle of the park that it makes you wonder why he spent most of his career playing at the back, also tried his luck in the first half, but although his shot was struck well it was too close to Struckmann.

Preston are a big, physical side and picked up three bookings in the first 15 minutes, leading Boro boss Graham Westley to later criticse the home side for some tough tackles one of which forced him to withdraw Chris Beardsley at the break to protect his striker.

It took 15 minutes of the second half for Preston to have their next effort on goal, this time Mellor toe-poking the ball past Day’s far post.

By this time one Arsenal loanee in the Stevenage ranks had replaced another with Chuks Aneke coming on for Luke Freeman, and Aneke signalled his intention to attack by curling an effort just wide of the Preston goal within two minutes of entering the game.

It is clear the teenager has considerable ability, and the precocious young talent almost scored a wonder goal from 40 yards when he tried to lob Stuckmann only for his effort to clear the Preston goalkeeper but also the left side of the big German’s post.

After 70 minutes of few chances suddenly the game opened up and both teams were presented with opportunities to take all of the three points.

Firstly Danny Mayor shot wide after getting the better of Wilson, and within a minute at the other end Aneke set up Darius Charles, himself a half time substitute for Beardsley, to force a good one-handed stop out of Struckmann.

Next up Preston hit the post, this time Conor McLoughlin squeezing the ball past a body or two to catch Day’s upright, before, at the other end, Michael Bostwick fed Boro’s third substitute, Byron Harrison, who cut inside to shoot at Stuckmann.

The game had rarely entertained the nine thousand or so hardy souls at Deepdale, and when the fourth official signalled they would have sit through a further three minutes there were audible sighs.

But the best chance for the hosts was to come, and it was Day who denied them.

Steven Smith, the man who had come on for Alexander in the opening minutes, did well to get down the left, and when he hit a long cross deep to Hume close to the far post the striker shot across Day only for the goalkeeper to move swiftly to his left before getting himself in the way of the ball, which was cleared by the home defenders.

It was a terrific stop, and the sort of save that helps a team build a defensive record of eight clean sheets in 10 games.

That is the type of record that promotion pushes are built on, but Stevenage need to start converting their opportunities at the other end if their hopes this season are to be realised.

Preston: Struckmann 8, Gray 6, Morgan 7, McCome 6, Doyle 5, McLaughlin 6 (Tsoumou 89), Alexander (Smith 3, 6), Barton 5, Mayor 6, Parry 5 (Hume 46, 7), Mellor 6. Subs: Turner, Carlisle.

Stevenage: Day 8, Wilson 6, Laird 7, Roberts 6, Ashton 6, Edwards 7 (Harrison 78), Bostwick 7, Byrom 6, Shroot 7, Freeman 7 (Aneke 60, 7), Beardsley 6 (Charles 46, 6). Subs: Julian, Long.

Attendance: 9,435

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