DAVID Moyes claimed this game was big one - with the three points available vital what with the match being sandwiched between two cup ties.

After the game, he claimed his players had worked very hard and tried everything to score.

That might have been what he saw, but the 13,000 fans inside Deepdale saw something very different.

It really does say something when the loudest cheer of the game erupted when Gillingham shot wide in the second half.

North End's defence seemed fragile to say the least, the midfield painfully missed Sean Gregan's calming influence as the four men across midfield struggled to get together any sort of opposition, while upfront it was painfully obvious it was going to be one of those days when, no matter what, David Healy and Jon Macken just weren't going to score.

And with a referee who obviously loved the sound of his own whistle ensured that this was, quite possibly, the worst home game of the season so far.

Some 24 minutes of scrappy football had to be endured before North End had their first chance. Rob Edwards fired in the ball from the left only for Healy to fire wide of goal.

Woeful midfield passing meant that North End would pay for that missed chance - and they did, six minutes later.

Creative work from Ty Gooden on the right hand side made space for Simon Osborn to fire a shot at goal. It hit Tepi Moilanen - drafted back in before being fully fit after David Lucas became injured in training - rolled up his body and into the top of the net.

Moilanen then pulled off a fine tip-over to make sure North End weren't 2-0 down.

North End fans, for the remainder of the first half, witnessed Healy fluff another attempt, several goalmouth scrambles and then Macken headed over from seven yards after Healy had set up what was possibly the best chance of the day.

Iain Anderson created a chance out of nothing - just going wide from 30 yards with a thundering shot.

We've seen North End go in at half time trailing and go on to win or draw so many times this season - but it was blatantly obvious they just weren't on top of this game.

Moyes opted to stick with the same midfield for the start of the second half, and watched on as Eric Skora - hero on Tuesday - Macken and Anderson all wasted chances.

Skora's header hit the inside of the crossbar and bounced back out. After the game, Moyes said he would have hoped a player would have in position to score on the rebound. Around 13,000 other people had the same thought.

There was such a lack of creativity from midfield that missing such chances would always cost North End dear - yet it was only with 15 minutes to go that Gregan was introduced to steady the ship.

But taking the place of a central defender meant Gregan had little chance to placing his stamp on the game.

Even with a third player up front - the impressive Michael Keane off for Steve Basham - the equaliser never came.

Instead, with four minutes to go, Marlon King shot at Tepi, who couldn't smother the shot. It fell to skipper Paul Smith, who wrapped the game up with no trouble.