06 April 2024

Preston’s play-off push not helped by goalless draw at Watford

06 April 2024

Preston’s Sky Bet Championship play-off hopes were dealt a blow by a tame 0-0 draw against Watford at Vicarage Road.

Richard Hughes and Will Keane missed gilt-edged chances for the visitors, for whom an away point from a game played in a swirling, unpredictable wind might have been seen as a positive earlier in the season.

Instead, with many of their rivals winning, it means that Ryan Lowe’s side are now seven points adrift of the final play-off position.

Victory felt like an imperative for the visitors on Preston’s designated Gentry Day when supporters dress up, many of them sporting bowler hats to remember fans of the club who have passed away in the past 12 months.

They might have taken a fifth-minute lead, only for Jack Whatmough’s header from a Robbie Brady corner to drop harmlessly wide.

Watford’s season has been given a boost of energy by interim manager Tom Cleverley, with optimism replacing the sterility of the Valerien Ismael era.

Tom Dele-Bashiru and Yaser Asprilla both had early shots for the hosts. A clearer opportunity was created by one wing-back Ryan Andrews, whose low cross fell into the path of the other, Jamal Lewis, after 13 minutes. Yet, when a cool head was needed, Lewis rushed his shot and lifted it high over the bar.

The match was not aided by the difficult gusts of wind which made it difficult to construct passing moves with any confidence.

The stalemate ought to have been broken as the game entered first-half stoppage time. A high looping cross from Greg Cunningham dropped at the feet of Hughes eight yards out but the Preston midfielder’s skewed shot almost ran out for a throw-in.

With the second half settling back into the pattern of possession lacking a true sense of purpose, Watford captain Wes Hoedt decided to seize the initiative with a 30-yard piledriver towards the far top corner which flew narrowly wide of its target.

Still, though, it appeared that Preston’s need for three points was the greater and Keane volleyed narrowly wide from a clever Emil Riis flicked pass.

Lowe replaced both of his strikers in an effort to inject fresh impetus into his side, but the game drifted away in the final minutes into a disappointing stalemate.

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