Dave Seddon's big match verdict

The energy and excitement of August and September has been drained from Preston in October and the few days we have had of November.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 5th November 2017, 4:30 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 3:10 am
Daniel Johnson's left-foot shot hits the bar in first-half injury time
Daniel Johnson's left-foot shot hits the bar in first-half injury time

Nine games unbeaten have turned into six without a win, the last four of those ending in defeat.

A chronic injury list has without doubt played its part in dismantling confidence and North End’s approach.

Injuries or not though, what they served up in the second half at Portman Road simply was not good enough.

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They had enough round pegs in round holes to put up a better fight against Ipswich who themselves were not bouncing with confidence.

Yet the Tractor Boys were allowed to motor to what was a relatively comfortable win, the performance dished up by PNE their worst of the season.

Exposed at the back either side of the interval, they only posed an occasional attacking threat – that a contrast to the side which pressed, harried and out-worked teams until very recently.

It is only three weeks since they drew 2-2 at Fulham, a game they led 2-0 and were 10 seconds away from winning.

Had they held on, Preston would have gone second that afternoon.

That was the last time they put a point on the board and four defeats later occupy a slot in the lower half of the table.

The Championship can do that to you – just ask Leeds who topped the division early doors but are now on a run of six defeats in seven.

Look at Norwich who have lost the last three since the high of beating Ipswich in the East Anglia derby.

The shipping of three goals to Mick McCarthy’s outfit was to continue the trend of the last few weeks.

In the first 10 league games of the campaign, North End let in only four goals.

The contrast has been stark since, 15 goals conceded in the last six.

Ipswich’s three goals were all defendable to a degree, it was not as if they needed to play tiki-taka football to cut their visitors open.

A free-kick which asked questions of Chris Maxwell’s positioning, broke the deadlock.

The second goal came from a cross which sub Marnick Vermijl could have defended in a far more aggressive way.

For the third, Kevin O’Connor was caught way 
upfield, the space behind him exploited ruthlessly well by Bersant Celina.

Not that Preston weren’t without their chances and we are talking about when the score was 0-0 and 1-0.

Ben Pearson had sight of goal early on, forcing keeper Bartosz Bialkowski into a good save.

Soon after the Ipswich opener, a 20-yard shot from Daniel Johnson hit the bar.

It was the opening goal which proved to be the kick in the guts for PNE.

The game had reached the 45th minute mark, the half of football we had witnessed forgettable.

But it looked as if North End would go in all-square and deservedly so.

I say that because Ipswich had been no great shakes, in fact Neil’s men had been slightly better.

It was a first half disrupted by stoppages and injuries.

Both sides saw a player limp off – 
Darnell Fisher in PNE’s case.

There was a clash of heads for Paul Huntington and his old team-mate Joe Garner.

It was stop-start, a typical Championship battle which you hoped would eventually develop into something a bit better.

All-square at the interval would have suited Preston down to the ground but the dynamics of the contest changed with the first goal.

Pre-match, Neil had stressed the importance of the opening goal in North End matches.

After all, just twice this season had they taken something from a game after conceding first.

A second goal hitting the back of their net four minutes into the second half, made the task even harder.

The third goal was a coat of gloss for Ipswich, the game put well beyond Preston.

Looking back on the run without a win, it is the last three games where the alarm bells have started to ring.

The Sunderland match had its good and bad moments, then the performance against Fulham was very decent until the closing stages.

At Wolves, they deserved something for their display before and after the leaders’ purple patch.

Against Brentford, levels began to dip, likewise they found the going tough in the Aston Villa defeat.

On Saturday, they dropped a level or two again once the first goal had been shipped.

There is no denying that the casualty list has bitten them hard of late.

The number of defenders missing is astounding, Fisher the latest to join the queue for treatment.

Further up the pitch, it is Sean Maguire’s injury which is a desperate blow.

His team-mates learned on Friday morning that Maguire was facing three or four months out with a hamstring injury of such a severity that surgery is required.

The news was shared ahead of kick-off at Ipswich, with Neil describing it later as ‘devastating’.

In a bid to cover the loss of so many players, Neil had gone for a slight change of system.

He went 4-1-4-1 in a bid to make PNE that bit more solid.

John Welsh returned to sit in front of the back four, with Ben Pearson and Alan Browne in the centre of midfield.

Either side of them were Tom Barkhuizen and DJ, with Hugill on his own up front.

Pearson ran on to a Hugill pass in the sixth minute to get off a shot which Bialkowski stuck out a leg to save.

That was the best chance of the game until Ipswich took the lead at the end of the half.

Welsh was pulled up and booked for a challenge on Waghorn 22 yards out.

It was WAGHORN who fired the free-kick into the big gap left by Maxwell as he took a step behind his wall thinking the shot might come over it.

The second goal came in the 49th minute, a cross from Jordan Spence travelling to McGOLDRICK who got above Vermijl to head home at the back post.

CELINA’S fierce angled shot after romping up the right wing was the final nail.