It was coming down like cats and dogs when I got up this morning and biking didn't look like a sensible option, thankfully my daughter came to the rescue and gave us a lift to the ground. the rain had passed through by 2pm and conditions seemed ideal come kick off time. I wasn't surprised to see Idah keep his place after last weeks heroics while yet again Hernandez continued to be first choice despite indifferent form.
midfield congestion stifled the early play until in the fifth minute, Idah rode a couple of tackles and sent Sara away to the right of goal but he couldn't shake the defender who blocked his shot for a corner. It was about now that the sky suddenly darkened and a storm of almost biblical proportions swept across the ground, driving several in the front rows of the South Stand to seek shelter. Thankfully it passed through quickly and as conditions cleared Hernandez raced away down thr left and managed to cut thee ball back to Nunez just outside the box. The little man struck his shot well enough but it skimmed a foot wide of Woodmans right post.
We saw almost nothing from the visitors who appeared to be more concerned with getting everyone behind the ball than attacking. City racked up the pass count and seemed to be turning the screw as we reached the mid point of the half. Nunez and Sara both had shots blocked as the Preston defenders closed ranks. It was difficult for the home side to create a clear opening but just before the half hour Ginny got Hernandez away down the left but Woodman judged his angles well and was able to block the shot away. It was frustrating stuff as City were passing Preston off the pitch but just couldn't find a cutting edge. The closest we came to an opener in the first half was when a defender misjudged a cross from the left and Fassnacht was able to chest the ball down at the far post and shoot past Woodman only for a defender to hoof the ball away near the line.
I thought Wagner might have slung Rowe on for the second half but he persisted with the starting eleven for another ten minutes durng which time the match continued to follow the same path as the opening forty five. Preston finally won a free kick in our half and a header skimmed just wide of the angle with Gunn relieved to see it go over. Wagner took the hint and swapped Barnes and Fassnacht for Gibbs and Rowe and the pass count continued to tick up without any clear cut openings emerging. Rowe did get on the end of a cross but with so many defenders in the box the ball was cleared after a bit of ping pong.
At the other end a rare Preston foray ended with a shot that clipped the bar after Gunn didn't get enough on his punched clearance. It was a warning that despite all the City domination of possession, one mistake could be fatal. The crowd however roused themselves and we did get a bit of noise and even some chanting back and forth from the Snakepit to the Barclay. Unfortunately it couldn't drum up a goal although with fifteen minutes left Gibbs had what was the best opportunity of the match. Kenny surged forward and found Sara who quickly cut the ball into the box where Gibbs, having timed his run perfectly, had space to pick his spot but could only roll the ball agonisingly wide of Woodman's left post. You somehow know after something like that that it isn't going to be our day.
We had Sainz on for Hernandez and Fisher for Stacey but things continued to roll in the same old way with plenty of passing across the eighteen yard line but little of note that might bother the Preston keeper. In the final knockings Duffy got a good header on target and I was half out of my seat before disppointingly seeing it bundled away from the line. After that it was just huff and puff until the final whistle.
A couple of months ago we would have lost this game one nil because of a silly defensive error so I suppose that is some sort of progress. Kenny, Sara and Nunez were our best players on the day and I wouldn't begrudge either of them getting MOM. In all honesty it was an averagely middling contest between two average mid table sides. One didn't do enough to win it and the other did enough not to lose it.