Reporter Adam Lord takes a closer look at an extraordinary afternoon at Hillsborough.
Jermaine Beckford and Eoin Doyle have a lot of making up to do
Where to start with Saturday? It ended with a moment you very rarely see on a football field, as Doyle and Beckford were saved by their team mates from getting involved in a full blown scrap. Seemingly a disagreement over Doyle playing in Marnick Vermijl at the end of a counter attack, it was a shameful scene just as PNE looked like they might grab a point. Whatever adjective you use - embarrassing, childish, idiotic - the pair first have to make up themselves before rebuilding the trust of their team mates and the Preston fans. For Beckford it means another spell on the sidelines having only just returned from injury while Doyle had impressively fired home moments after coming on having barely kicked a ball in recent weeks. The pair will certainly have plenty to think about during their three-game bans. It remains to be seen what other punishment follows.
When things go wrong they really go wrong
By and large PNE have been pretty consistent this season. This was just a second defeat in 11 Championship games while most defeats during a tough start to the campaign came by the odd goal. But when things have gone wrong, it’s happened in spectacular fashion. There was the late capitulation at Brentford that led to a 5-0 defeat while Alan Browne’s red card set the tone for the 6-0 hammering at Newcastle in the EFL Cup. Saturday was another one of those days. On both previous occasions North End have responded pretty well. Here’s hoping for more of the same against Blackburn.
There will be highs and lows with Chris Maxwell
Felling Will Buckley 10 minutes from time for Sheffield Wednesday’s penalty wasn’t Chris Maxwell’s finest moment in a North End shirt. He probably didn’t need to make the challenge and paid the price for mistiming a rush from his line. Despite the error, the goalkeeper’s authority and decisiveness remains his greatest asset. Such is the frequency that he comes off his line there will be moments like the one that allowed Steven Fletcher to convert from the spot. It should still be encouraged, various members of the PNE backline commenting what a difference Maxwell has made since replacing Anders Lindegaard. And he’s only going to get better.
Delivery needs to improve
As against Burton, PNE arguably missed Paul Gallagher as they went in search of an equaliser at Hillsborough. On plenty of occasions in the second half, Simon Grayson’s men were allowed to progress into promising positions only for openings to come to nothing. Delivery, both from set pieces and open play, was largely poor as the visitors looked for a way back into the game. While many struggled, Ben Pearson again impressed in the middle of the park with his industry and is quickly becoming the key man for the Lilywhites.
Adam Reach isn’t a left back
PNE fans will have been surprised to see Adam Reach being used as a left back by Sheffield Wednesday. The former North End loanee is known for his exploits more further forward and looked to be a key attacking signing for the Owls when they paid £5 million to take him from Middlesbrough. He may be lining up as a ‘defender’ but Reach is anything but. Wearing nine on his back he brings a new definition to the term ‘attacking full back’, not only overlapping Barry Bannan as the former Aston Villa man tucked in but at times even being the furthest man forward. By and large it wasn’t a good day for those facing their former clubs, Aiden McGeady and Ross Wallace limping off while Marnick Vermijl failed to make an impact off the bench in the second half.