Alex Neil's Deepdale return was dastardly for Preston fan John Smith

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Before Saturday the last time I had left a stadium hearing an away following singing so enthusiastically about "Alex Neil’s Army" had been at Charlton on a memorable Sunday afternoon in November 2019.

On that occasion, our former manager had just taken us to the top of the Championship during the peak of his four season stay here.

As Neil walked towards the visitors’ dugout before kick-off, there was some warm applause from the fans in the Invincibles Pavilion which showed that most do not regard him as a pantomime villain.

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However, he did play the role of a notable baddie as he threw a massive spanner in the works by denting our hopes for back-to-back home wins.

Stoke City manager Alex Neil applauds the Preston North End fans after the matchStoke City manager Alex Neil applauds the Preston North End fans after the match
Stoke City manager Alex Neil applauds the Preston North End fans after the match

To use the phrases of Dick Dastardly it was a case of first "drat" and then "double drat" as two Stoke goals in a disastrous eight-minute second half spell made it another miserable afternoon for the Deepdale faithful.

Although the away fans constantly chanted their alternative theory as to why Neil had left Preston, for me our performance was on a par if not worse than some of those here before his sacking 18 months ago. Apart from a brief two-minute spell in the first half and a couple of hopeful rather than stonewall penalty appeals I could not see where any home goal would come from.

We have now scored just two goals in our last eight home games which really is a truly abysmal record.

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It is hard as a fan to understand this especially as we scored three goals when beating top-of-the-table Norwich a week ago.

I cannot decide if it is connected to our style of play at home or just the unpredictable nature of the Championship?

I have previously defended Ryan Lowe believing in the saying that if you don’t have the eggs then you cannot make the omelette.

To support this I think that in the last few games some of our players in our small squad have looked unfit and seemed tired and jaded.

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However after putting two strikers on the bench, his decision not to change the ineffective striking partnership in his first double substitution baffled me especially as we were two goals down and chasing the game.

Although later on it was pleasing to see local lad Finley Cross-Adair make his debut. It was a tall order for the young striker as we were already in the Temple of Doom and even Indiana Jones could not have rescued a point from this lost cause.