PNE Fans' Panel verdicts
JOHN ROPERThe rot was stopped at Deepdale after this 1-1 draw with rock bottom Rotherham.
But the the disastrous end to the season continues, with North End having taken just one point from the last 15. Some mitigation can be rightly put forward in terms of the injuries and suspensions to key players but I have to say that the application against Rotherham was not what we expect it to be from a Simon Grayson team. To be fair to the visitors they came with a carefree attitude, having been relegated weeks ago, but nevertheless we should still have had more than enough quality in the team to ensure that the season finished with a home win. The bright spot, in a very mediocre game, was the equaliser by Stevie May, which I have to say was a bit of quality on an afternoon otherwise bereft of it. Just what the performance would have been like without Aiden McGeady goodness only knows, with the little winger winning the man of the match in what might be his last game for North End at Deepdale. It was the Millers who scored first when Alan Browne got a good header away but followed up with a weak tackle, and as the ball eventually fell to Smallwood, he shot just inside the far post. Our possession stats rose and just before the break Stevie May put the sides level with a superb curling shot just inside the far post. It was a great relief to the North Fans in a crowd of 11,032, which included 471 making the trip over from South Yourkshire. The second half was one of the most actionless 45 minutes of the season if I am being honest, as both teams tried to generate a way through but defences were on top for long periods. A thoroughly disappointing end to the home campaign and while it is easy to rant and rave on the back of a few recent performance, I think the inquest should wait till at least a few days after next Sunday’s final game at Wolverhampton when we will all have time to look back on the season in a more considered manner. Clearly the home form has been generally better this campaign. At Molineux, I am fairly sure we will see the return of Gallagher and Pearson to give our midfield the strength and the creativity. No doubt the manager will be very anxious to get something next week and improve on last year’s points tally and league position.
Just over 30 years ago this week I, like Les Chapman, was 53 miles west of Venus celebrating promotion on the pitch at Orient. But whatever planet I was on after Saturday’s game i was a lot further away and like Venus spinning in the opposite direction. The last home game against already relegated Rotherham was hardly a marquee fixture but at no time did it appear that the game was heading for a volcanic eruption as our home season petered out. There were a couple of plus points with man of the match Aiden McGeady proving once again to be a notch above the level of talent displayed on the pitch by both sides. McGeady has been an influential key to what I feel has been a succesful season, having improved on last season’s points total to finish mid-table after an horrendous opening six weeks. I’m sure that the followers of our nearest local rivals in this division, relegated Wigan, and Blackburn Rovers who could possibly join them in a week’s time, would gladly swap places with us. Although we have failed throughout the season to plant a flag in the ground of the play-off places, we have become an established and respected side in this league which is a great credit to our manager Simon Grayson. Over the season there have been changes in personnel and our squad now has a more youthful look about it and contains players who can adapt to a system with ease. I do feel that in recent games the loss of both Greg Cunningham and Tom Clarke have had an influence on our results. We have got ourselves something to build on for next season and if the squad is strengthened in the summer Simon Grayson will be reaching for the asprin on a regular basis to ease his selection headache every time he fills in a teamsheet. Another plus in the game was Stevie May, a player I feel still has a lot to offer at this club.
In all honesty this was not a game that will linger in the old memory bank as an already relegated Rotherham doubled their away points tally for the season at Deepdale. At one point, it seemed they might even achieve an elusive first away win after taking the lead in the opening 10 minutes of the match. Eventually, North End awoke from their slumbers and equalised shortly before half-time, a delightful curling shot from Stevie May being one of the few bright spots of the afternoon. With this being May’s first start since coming back from a serious injury it clearly meant a lot to him and will have done him a world of good. The second half was not much better, but at least the hosts edged it overall and could have scored on a couple of occasions. Of these, a late and powerful Simon Makienok header was probably the best chance of all and seem destined for the back of net until it was somehow kept out on the line. Makienok had been brought on as Simon Grayson’s last roll of the dice to join fellow subs Daryl Horgan and Callum Robinson in an attempt to get something more out of the game. However, in my view the battle was lost in midfield, with the suspended duo of Paul Gallagher and Ben Pearson being sorely missed. Aiden McGeady provided the only real spark over 90 minutes and it is now imperative that everything is done to secure his services for at least one more season. Any kind of result in our last game of the season away at Wolves will ensure we finish with more points than last season in what has undoubtedly been a year of further progression by the team overall. Such a pity it has ended as a bit of a damp squib from four matches ago when we had a realistic chance of finishing at the 70-point mark. No doubt Simon Grayson and his staff are already plotting a path to this and more as the players go off into the summer sun and we, the fans, dare to dream again of seasons to come.