This happened in the last game and was repeated in mirror-image fashion this afternoon at the Quicksands Stadium.
This time it was the home side who were thus reduced, with the mercurial Arter getting his marching orders in the 25th minute. Before that, we had been going quite nicely, creating a couple of chances which unfortunately fell to the recalled Thomas who, despite getting into good positions, seems destined never to score again. First he stung Stuckmann's fingers with a fierce drive from the right, then failed to get the desired contact on a near-post header and finally failed to outwit the Preston keeper in a one-on-one.
When a free-kick was given against Arter, our man decided to dribble the ball some ten yards away from the incident, thereby incurring the ref's justified displeasure and earning himself a yellow card. Shortly afterwards, he appeared to slide into Holmes after the ball had gone - I was too far away to see the incident clearly, but the second yellow looked a little harsh given the slippery conditions after a heavy shower. This typifies Arter, though — bags of promise, but a self-destructive streak that could well prove career-limiting.
This obviously encouraged the visitors who began to pen us in our own half for long periods. Nevertheless, they managed to create little in the way of chances and the remainder of the half passed off without major alarms (or even diversions).
The second period continued in the same vein, but seven minutes into the half, Pugh broke free on the left and was brought down near the bye-line. Despite still apparently limping, the boy from Backup took the kick himself and the recalled Elphick was at the near post to glance a header into the opposite corner.
During the next phase of the game, we looked pretty comfortable while North End looked increasingly ragged and frustrated. Admittedly we had a couple of scares, with Thomas having to save the day on one occasion. MacDonald and Grabban were sent on to replace the tiring O'Kane and the ineffective Barnard respectively.
With barely a quarter of an hour to go, just when it seemed that an unlikely 3 points were on the cards, a cross from the right found the substitute Sodje whose header into the top left-hand corner gave Jalal no chance. Elphick could probably have done better in marking him, and his body language said as much.
The rest of the game was without major incident, with the injured Partington (who had had an excellent game) being replaced by Cook near the end. The latter was pushed up front, the manager obviously considering him a better option than the expensive Tubbs.
All in all, a disappointing draw, despite the numerical disadvantage. Not great entertainment either.
Jalal 6: competent, but little to do
Francis 7: continues to impress
Elphick 6: scored; solid, apart from the goal conceded,
Addison 7: solid throughout,
Daniels 6: still out of sorts,
O’Kane 6: works hard, but not at his best
Partington 7: MOM - benefiting from a run in the side
Arter 5: what can you say?
Pugh 7: took a while to get going
Thomas 6: badly needs a goal
Barnard 6: needs the right service
AFCB: Jalal, Francis, Elphick, Addison, Daniels, Partington, Pugh, Arter, O'Kane, Thomas, Barnard
Subs: Flahavan, Zubar, McDermott, Tubbs, MacDonald (for O'Kane, 58 mins), Grabban (for Barnard, 62 mins), Cook (for Partington, 84 mins)
Ellis Griffin, Chertsey