Adam Lord takes a look at Preston North End’s humbling defeat at Brentford on Saturday.
PNE are wildly inconsistent
The reality is right now you just don’t know what you’re going to get from Preston North End. There have been two ‘breakthrough’ games against Queens Park Rangers and Cardiff but neither have been followed up. The Ipswich defeat that followed the defeat at Loftus Road was disappointing, PNE failing to really get into gear. Then Saturday’s performance saw a decent display turn into something of a horrorshow as North End shipped three goals in four minutes late on. My match report post Ipswich kicked off with the question “Will the real Preston North End please stand up?”. And that is still the case. A degree of consistency, based on being tough to break down, should be the aim for PNE but at the moment it’s a real rollercoaster with more downs that ups. Bournemouth is now a free shot and in a way, you wouldn’t bet against PNE springing a shock against the Premier League side. The bread and butter is the Championship though and even though it’s early days the game against Wigan on Friday night is quickly becoming huge.
Uncharacteristic soft centre on show again
A feature of PNE’s play last season was being hard to beat, something that made the late collapse all the more alarming on Saturday. Marnick Vermijl hobbling off sparked complete pandemonium with North End not knowing whether to stick or twist. Continuing to chase the game they left themselves horribly exposed, a makeshift defensive line torn apart as they shipped three goals late on. There was enough experience in the team to tighten things up and limit the damage, or even at least regroup before mounting an unlikely bid for a point. North End need to back to what helped them to an impressive 11th in the Championship last season, something which looks some way off at the moment.
Lack of cutting edge a concern
At the other end things were equally disappointing. Despite the final scoreline, as with a lot of defeats this season PNE were well in this game for long periods. They were arguably the better side when Scott Hogan scored the opener 10 minutes before the break. Promising play didn’t create a glut of chances over the 90 minutes though and when they did come they weren’t taken. Jordan Hugill, Vermijl, Eoin Doyle, Aiden McGeady and Simon Makienok all seeing openings of various difficulty come and go. Take one, even at 2-0 when Makienok’s fresh air shot came, and things could have been a whole lot different. At 0-0 PNE have an even greater need to be more ruthless having struggled to find their way back into games after going behind this season. Today, as on several occasions already this season, they were made to pay.
Right back problem back again
Vermijl had slotted in at right back nicely on his return to the club on a permanent deadline-day deal but his injury on Saturday reopens an old wound for Simon Grayson. Both his addition, and that of Alex Baptiste seemed to have solved any problems in that area but having to reshuffle once again is certainly a headache Grayson doesn’t need. Having used stop gaps in the early part of the season after Calum Woods’ serious injury the PNE boss will be forced down that road again with Vermijl’s hamstring problem likely to rule him out for a few of weeks at least.