EFL

Good point against a good team – John Eustace takes positives from Deepdale draw

By Sports Desk February 17, 2024

New Blackburn boss John Eustace was left with plenty of positives from their derby draw at Preston despite seeing the home side fight back from 2-0 down at Deepdale.

After tasting defeat on his return to Birmingham in midweek, Eustace must have felt his maiden Rovers win was on the way after first-half strikes from Sammie Szmodics and Sam Gallagher put them in charge against their Lancashire rivals.

Rovers were unable to hold on, with play-off chasing Preston hitting back just before the break to level through goals from Robbie Brady and Emil Riis, but Eustace was nevertheless heartened by his team’s performance.

“I’m very proud of the effort of the group,” he said. “The way they dug in with a few difficult moments was very rewarding.

“We wanted three points with the way we started, it was exceptional. We executed the game plan and the first half an hour was very good.

“There were a few tired bodies, you could see that and the decision-making a couple of times towards the end of the half cost us.

“It’s disappointing, but there are a lot of positives to take from the game. The way we dug in, the way we stuck together, the way we defended a very physical team. I think this group of players have been questioned for that level of commitment to keep the ball out of the net and I think they did that.

“It’s a good point against a good team.

“There’s no feeling of what might have been because you don’t have any divine right to win any games.

“You have to battle and keep the ball out for 95 minutes.

“We were always going to be under bits of pressure. It was really disappointing to concede two set-pieces. We need to get better at that.

“We’ve got quality players and quality going forward and we showed that. Overall, I’m very happy with the effort of the players.”

Szmodics overtook Plymouth’s Morgan Whittaker at the top of the Championship scoring charts as he gave Rovers an early lead and Gallagher sent the visiting fans into scenes of jubilation with a neat flick in the 23rd minute.

But a four-minute burst scuppered their victory charge with Brady’s stunning strike opening his account for the season and Riis scrambling home his third goal in as many games to draw the hosts level.

“It’s a good point in a local derby,” said Preston boss Ryan Lowe.

“It’s frustrating. When we were in the ascendency and got two goals back, there only looked to be one winner and that was us.

“We were camped out in their half. When you’re two goals down and get back to 2-2, you’ve got to be pleased with the point.

“I was disappointed with the two goals.

“Both sets of teams were out on their feet at the end.

“It wasn’t for a lack of trying. I thought the lads were fantastic in sticking to it.

“It ends up being a bit of a dogged performance in the end. We played a lot of football to try and get our way in. It’s a point in the right direction at the end.

“They were mistakes and individual errors really. I’m not going to fault the players.

“When you’ve got one of the best players in the league through on goal he’s going to score. You can’t give those types of goals away.

“We had to deal with the ball down the side for the second as well. We need to find solutions for next time.”

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