Derby hopes hit by Preston draw
Derby's automatic promotion hopes suffered another setback after they were held to a goalless draw by Preston at the iPro Stadium.
Although Derby had plenty of possession, they hardly created a clear chance against a disciplined and determined Preston side as their winless run was stretched to six league games.
Preston had lost the last four league games against Derby but the home side had not won in the Championship since Boxing Day and head coach Paul Clement reacted by dropping B#6million record signing Bradley Johnson to the bench.
Goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard made his Preston debut after his loan move from West Brom and he was nearly beaten inside the first minute when Jeff Hendrick flashed a shot inches past his left post.
Nick Blackman had a shot deflected over and Lindegaard was relieved to see his misplaced pass bounce off the shin of Tom Ince and go behind for a goal kick in the third minute.
Preston's record of not having conceded a goal in the first 15 minutes of a Championship match this season was under threat but Ben Pearson relieved some of the pressure with a strong run and shot that forced Scott Carson into a save.
It was only a brief respite because Derby were zipping the ball around with a confidence that had been absent in recent weeks although Paul Gallagher forced Carson into an acrobatic save to tip over a 25-yard shot in the 27th minute.
Gallagher volleyed over from the edge of the area and for all their possession, Derby had not tested Lindegaard who watched a Nick Blackman cross sail over his bar to groans of frustration from the home fans.
Derby started the second half like the first and Chris Martin and Ince combined on the right edge of the area to set up Hendrick for a shot that was blocked.
But Preston broke dangerously in the 55th minute, forcing Carson to dive to his right to save a 20-yard Daniel Johnson shot and although Jacob Butterfield was just off target with a low drive, Derby had still not forced Lindegaard into a save with an hour gone.
Martin tried to change that in the 73rd minute with a clever turn and pass but Lindegaard just beat Ince to the ball before he turned away a Cyrus Christie cross in the 80th minute.
Both sides went close in the final minutes with Jason Shackell blocking an Adam Reach shot before Craig Bryson fired just wide from the edge of the area in the 87th minute.
Thorne headed a corner wide under pressure at the back post in the third minute of stoppage time but it had been another disappointing night for Derby who are five points behind second-placed Middlesbrough having now played two games more.