The 4 talking points from Preston North End's 1-0 defeat to Brentford

Preston North End lost 1-0 to Brentford on Wednesday, an early Ollie Watkins goal settling the game.

Thursday, 16th July 2020, 12:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 16th July 2020, 12:58 pm

Brentford started the game well and an Emiliano pass found the run of Watkins who volleyed past Declan Rudd to score the only goal of the game inside four minutes.

PNE came to grow into the game and have chances on their own but they were unable to stop the Bees from taking all three points.

Here are four talking points from the game...

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The Preston North End team at Griffin Park.

1. It isn't over until it's over.

Although many a North End fan will have already written off the season, the play-offs are still a possibility.

PNE sit five points behind Cardiff City in sixth spot with two games to play and anything can still happen.

As Alex Neil said after the defeat, is it looking unlikely? Yes, but it is not impossible.

Cardiff's games come up against two relegation threatened sides in Middlesbrough and Hull City.

Boro are now managed by Neil Warnock, the Bluebirds former boss who guided them to the Premier League this time two seasons ago, and have already made an improvement.

As they are fighting for their lives, they still have something to play for and shouldn't have the same mentality that potentially other teams may have if they are safe and have nothing to play for.

Hull will be looking to regain a bit of dignity after their 8-0 thrashing from Wigan Athletic, and are also scrapping to stay in the division - so they're by no means straightforward games.

Preston don't have it easy, Birmingham City next up and then Bristol City, but as all games are in the championship, they are winnable.

The Lilywhites also need Millwall and Swansea City to make mistakes but all they can do is win their next two games and hope for the best.

2. A 1-0 game.

After his side's defeat, Alex Neil said he wanted to make the game into a 1-0 game, unfortunately it was the wrong way round but what he meant by that was he wanted to make it a tight affair.

By starting in a 3-5-2, the idea was to restrict Brentford and not go all out to press them as PNE have done against most of the top sides in the division.

Wednesday's game was about structure and shape, which worked quite well from minute five onward.

Neil was right in his assessment that his side actually created more in the 3-5-2 than later on in the game when he switched to 4-2-3-1, a theoretically more attacking system.

The Scot now feels confident in the system and felt that the base that it offered allowed PNE more in the game; Brentford are excellent at playing through the press and he didn't want his side being picked off in transitions, as happened with the goal.

A lapse in concentration just minutes into the game as they settled into a new system cost the Lilywhites, but such are the margins playing at the level that they are.

Otherwise, PNE had their chances to level things up, none of them blatantly clear cut, Tom Barkhuizen running through on goal and trying to lift his effort over David Raya being the best chance.

But as the Bees and now top scorer Watkins showed, it's about taking advantage of those singular moments, if that's all that you'll get, something that North End haven't done enough this season.

3. Brentford are a quality side.

It's not coincidence that Brentford are bearing down on the automatic promotion places, they're undeniably one of the best sides in the division at this moment in time, if not the best.

They have the top scorer in the division, one of the most creative and exciting midfielders - despite his appalling dive - in Said Benrahma - and brought in one of the standout defenders in Pontus Jansson who captains the side.

That isn't then forgetting the myriad of further talent they have away from that spine.

The football they play is forward thinking and attractive and they know what they're doing in every scenario, as a fancy football side, they've also scored the most goals from set pieces this season so they have more than one string to their bow.

The mood coming out of the Preston camp after the game was to give credit where it's due, they knew they came up against a top side in top form, now extending their club;s best ever run to eight consecutive Championship wins.

PNE were not blown away, like many teams have been, and gave pretty much as good as they got. They've shown already this season that they can match the best sides, they were just on the wrong side of a close game.

4. Squad depth.

Preston had to go into their final game at Griffin Park on Wednesday without their two best players, Ben Pearson and Ben Davies.

Both suffered injuries in the game against Nottingham Forest, having featured in every game since the restart.

The pair picking up injuries was always going to happen due to the high number of games in a short amount of time, though Pearson's game through a collision, Davies' was a wear and tear issue.

When players get injured it is always an opportunity for others. Jordan Storey has stepped into the breach at the back and has looked like he hasn't had months on the sideline patiently waiting.

Such as when he came into the side last season, he has come in and looked every bit the part. He loses himself sometimes but his recovery so far has been brilliant and he has put in some fantastic last ditch tackles to redeem himself, those will go in time.

Further forward, Ryan Ledson, although previously used alongside Pearson, has been tasked with the enforcer role of keeping things tight and distributing the ball.

Both in a pair with North End's no.4 and without him, he has also looked the part.

North End played well against Brentford and on the bench were Paul Gallagher, Josh Harrop, Billy Bodin, Brad Potts, Jayden Stockley and others, all capable of starring roles when called upon.

The condensed fixture list is full of problems but PNE have shown that they have quality outside of just their starting XI on the day.