John Smith’s Preston North End fans’ panel verdict: Second-half display can’t disguise cracks

The presence of The Grinch could still be felt in the air around the Deepdale stands as our fans’ lack of festive cheer continued with a first-hurdle exit from the FA Cup.

Sunday, 5th January 2020, 4:00 pm
Jayden Stockley was John Smith's choice as PNE man of the match

The subdued atmosphere in the sparse crowd was not helped when we conceded a soft goal with less than two minutes played on the clock.

Connor Ripley one of the nine changes made by Alex Neil looked very rusty in coming out for a ball played over the top and his hesitancy was punished with a clinical finish.

Ripley looked to be in desperate need of a douse of WD-40 when he allowed a hopeful shot to squirm under his body shortly before the half-hour mark which then left us with a huge mountain to climb.

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It looked like Ripley’s rusty limbs had been successfully lubricated a few minutes before the break when he sprinted out of his area to make an decisive interception but all his good work was undone when he failed to get any height on his clearance and it was agonisingly returned over the luckless keeper’s head into an empty net from distance. A

t half time I feared that we could be on the end of a real drubbing. However, an early second half goal offered a very faint glimmer of hope which lifted the previously subdued crowd.

The goal nodded in by Billy Bodin came from the assist of a powerful header by man of the match Jayden Stockley.

Ripley’s nightmare game was made complete when he was yellow carded after conceding a penalty which restored the away side’s three goal cushion.

The second-half display was a massive improvement with a positive being that we created a few chances and scored a well worked consolation goal finished off by Josh Harrop.

However I left the ground feeling disappointed that the once solid Fortress Deepdale is becoming more like a crumbling sandcastle waiting to be battered by the incoming tide.