'Not acceptable' - Ched Evans delivers brutally honest Preston North End assessment
Preston North End striker Ched Evans has demanded improvement from the squad after losing three games in a row.
The Lilywhites were beaten 0-2 on Friday night by Queens Park Rangers, following defeats to Middlesbrough and Cardiff City. It's two wins in 12 games for Ryan Lowe's side, who have registered two shots on target in their last 180 minutes of football.
Evans was back in the PNE starting XI for the visit of Marti Cifuentes' team. The Rs frustrated Preston in the first half and picked them off twice in the second, with Paul Smyth and Chris Willock scoring the goals. North End's number nine did not hold back in a measured but passionate post-match rant, given recent results - but more so performances.
"It's been a tough week, physically and mentally," said Evans. "We've had a chat about it in the changing room there. From my point of view, it's not acceptable. I hold my hand up; it's not acceptable from me, allowing it. I think all the lads feel the same and I think things have to change, because that is not us. That is not Preston. We look like we are a bit comfortable. I said to the lads that if I give the ball away, I want someone to tell me to keep it and do well for the team. We're a bit all over the place at the moment.
"It is down to us to get that right and perform better, because it's not good enough. We work so hard as a team, but we are not creating nor defending - kind of in no man's land. It is something we need to address and quickly. I am not making excuses for anybody or myself. That tonight was just, I don't even know how to explain it. I felt like we didn't look like scoring and I don't know why I've got this feeling, but when we are playing at home we're having a lot of possession and making passes - then the opposition just score from nowhere.
"It is like a pin popping a balloon and in the whole stadium, you can feel the atmosphere change. I get that, because when we are on top in games, making passes, trying to play and do the right things - then the opposition score it's like: 'Right, what do we do now?'. Like I say, we are kind of in no man's land: 'Do we keep passing? Do we go long?'. The second goal tonight comes from people being out of position and leadership not being there on the pitch. But, that will change; they are in there, they just need to believe it.
"It's about us getting together now and actually showing the fans. They are coming out in this cold, this weather, travelling to Middlesbrough - I am gutted for them. It's down to the players; the manager says his bit and can tell us until he is blue in the face. He can't keep ramming it down our throats, because ultimately it's down to us. He demands more and expects better. I think, depending on personnel, I spoke to Mads in there and for me - if Mads is higher up the pitch, with his quality of pass and touch, he's in a better position to create.
"If we are passing the ball and he's not getting the ball in certain positions, he then becomes a bit ineffective. He is a quality player and I said that I want him up the pitch, so we can put the crosses in. He nearly put one in and they got a tiny touch on it, which took it just off me. Like I said to the lads, if the ball is in their half more than ours then the chances are we'll score. I think keeping possession of the ball - and passing it around the back - it looks nice but is not effective.
"Ultimately, we've come away from who we are and how we do it - as you've seen in the last two games. We need to get back to what we were doing and what we are good at. Everybody is different and deals with pressure differently. For me, the players that don't feel it as much need to step up and help those who do. Players get affected by fans. They will say they don't, but they do. How can you not? But, if they are doing what is expected of them then you cannot grumble with that.
"If they're putting performances in, which we've done and seen, then you get clapped off. It is not rocket science. Fear? I don't think it is fear. I think it's more nerves and different personalities. I am a Preston fan, so if I'm on the bench and seeing that - I get that frustration. I can feel it on the pitch and so do we. But, it's dealing with that. Do we crumble? Because if we are going to crumble then we're not in the right job. Fans pay their money to come and watch and support their team. The absolute least they can expect is that everyone gives 100 per cent."