John Roper’s Fans’ Panel verdict on home defeat by Middlesbrough: We MUST sign spearhead for the attack

A second consecutive 2-0 home reverse sees North End’s slide down the Championship table continue.

Thursday, 2nd January 2020, 10:45 am
Ben Pearson battles with Middlesbrough's Marcus Tavernier

This performance against Middlesbrough completed a msierable four days at Deepdale and meant a holiday period return of just two points from a possible 12.

Extend this run back 10 games, which is a fair sample, and PNE have collected just eight points from a possible 30 and on the face of it, that is relegation form.

This display was better than the Reading performance but we conceded a sloppy first goal and when Ben Davies made a very uncharacteristic mistake for the second, you had to think there was no way back.

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Preston seemed to go sideways far too often in the middle of the Park and hence the build-up play lacked momentum.

Add to this a countless number of crosses, similar to the Reading game, but with nobody to get on the end of them.

Yes, Middlesbrough had some decent players but so have we, however on this showing the points, quite rightly, went back to Tees-side.

Manager Alex Neil made five changes to the side beaten by Reading with Bodin, Stockley, Harrop, Huntington and Clarke making way for Bauer, Fisher, Barkhuizen, Gallagher and Nugent.

Some would argue it was North End’s best XI that started the game but things didn’t pan out that way and teams are now finding us much more easy to defend against.

To be fair to North End the game was pretty even for the first half-an-hour but I felt that the visitors always looked the more like to score as their attacking was quicker and more incisive than PNE’s.

We had a couple of chances early on but Boro took the lead through Gestede, who managed an overhead kick into the net after North End had failed to clear a cross from McNair.

It was a poor goal to concede from our perspective and unusually poor defending from North End which probably summed up the whole performance.

The manager resisted the temptation to change things at half-time as PNE came out looking like they were going to take the game to the Smoggies.

Andrew Hughes had a header that went just wide early on in the second half but once again it was the visitors who attacked in the more decisive manner.

Tavernier was instrumental in most things that Middlesbrough did and he had a decent chance before North End made the afternoon doubly difficult for themselves.

Davies almost lost the ball on the edge of the box. However, he managed to recover only to hit his rushed back pass beyond Declan Rudd and into the corner of the net.

To be fair, Rudd had made two outstanding saves in the second period and was no way to blame for the own goal.

North End huffed and puffed and made all three subs but to little effect and the visitors made the 125-mile trip back up to the North East with the three points comfortably in their pockets.

It is not a panic situation for PNE – in fact we are only four points behind the team in third place with 20 games to go, so, obviously, it is still all to play for.

But I think that there is a growing feeling amongst the support that we are a just a good solid Championship side and nothing more than that.

Only the table at the end of the season will say how good we are but it is fairly clear that we need to strengthen up front.

If we only make one signing or loan signing in this transfer window, then it must be someone to spearhead our attack.

We had an excellent first 16 games of the season but the last 10 have been poor by anybody’s standards.

We get a breather from league action this week with the visit of Norwich City to Deepdale in the FA Cup but then it is the visit to Ewood Park for what promises to be a battle royal against our nearest rivals.