Roper’s Review of PNE campaign

PNE fans on Gentry Day at Fulham

PNE fans on Gentry Day at Fulham

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Lancashire Post PNE Fans’ Panel member John Roper gives his verdict on the season just ended.

Another season over and time to reflect on how things turned out for North End both on and off the pitch.

2016-17 was a season of almost three different sections with wildly differing outcomes. A poor start followed by a very impressive long middle section followed by a dramatically poor finish once the play-off horse had bolted.

Sixty-two points and 11th place exactly replicated the position 12 months ago but I suppose the question on everyone’s lips was have we improved as a squad?

The facts are that we played better at home this season that we did last time but we were poorer away, winning only one game since the turn of the year.

I think the fact that all our fans see us at home and only about 15% see us away would lead to the general impression that the football has been of a better standard this time and I think it probably has.

One big factor in that statement has been the loan signing of Aiden McGeady who won the player of the year trophy for his outstanding performances in some games.

My player of the year was Ben Pearson but that’s a different story.

The first eight games of the season saw us win just two and it looked very much like we were going to be in a relegation fight after a shocker of a 5-0 reverse at Brentford.

But the manager picked the boys for an outstanding win at Bournemouth in the League Cup, followed by a six-game unbeaten league run only ended by a controversial 2-1 home defeat to Newcastle.

North End were steadily climbing the league and went on another unbeaten run only punctuated by the debacle at Sheffield Wednesday in December, when Beckford and Doyle were sent off for fighting each other.

Apart from a nasty home defeat on Boxing Day, 4-1 to Leeds, our steady climb continued and in the third round of the FA Cup we gave Arsenal a real run for their money only losing in the last minute denying the fans a prestige replay at The Emirates.

The win at Burton on January 2, was to be our last away win of the season and although the home form was good with wins against Brighton, Villa, Huddersfield and Reading ,we just didn’t collect enough points on the road to stay up will the play off challengers.

There was a fabulous day out at Fulham for Gentry Day with almost 3,000 North End fans making the trip to Craven Cottage with fans making their way by trains and boats and planes.

We kept just about in touch, up to the 5-0 battering of Bristol City at Deepdale on April 4, but clearly the one point from the next 18 put a nasty cloud over the end of season review.

Better football yes, better outcome – debatable but certainly room for optimism for next term.

Again the owner Trevor Hemmings has to be thanked and congratulated for his contribution and support to keep the club where it is in the football league pyramid.

We need to be aware, though, that consolidation in the Championship often leads to decline and in a league getting ever tougher with larger parachute payments, it is a tough job for the board to make a financial model that will take the club forward, whilst not accruing a huge debt as we did when trying to stave off relegation in 2009/10.

In summary, I think a good season with some memorable highlights but one that might well be remembered for lost opportunities at the start and the finish of the season.

I am sure that the manager Simon Grayson will want his key players in place for the start of pre-season so that we hit the ground running this time to give us every chance of further improvement next term.