Dave Seddon's PNE Pressview: Outfoxed on the way back from Preston's trip to Millwall

The well worn cliché that Millwall is a tough place to go didn’t quite ring true with my experience in midweek.

By Dave Seddon
Friday, 4th February 2022, 12:28 pm
Updated Friday, 4th February 2022, 2:00 pm

Rather it was a tough place to get back from would be more accurate.

It seemed every car in South London was heading for the Rotherhithe Tunnel to go north of the river as we were leaving The Den.

Once the said tunnel had been driven through at a snail’s pace, getting out of that London was a long haul.

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Ben Whiteman missed a penalty against Millwall

The most exciting part of the journey was seeing two urban foxes passing through the South Bermondsey area.

One darted across the industrial unit which doubled as the media car park at The Den, another shot across the road in front of us as we headed in the direction of Rotherhithe.

The fact I’m recounting stories of London traffic and cunning foxes points to the fact that not a lot happened in Preston North End’s clash with Millwall.

Ben Whiteman’s penalty hitting the post was the stand-out moment in a game where clear-cut chances were few and far between.

I’m told Paul Merson had a bit of meltdown watching it in the Sky Sports studio but does anyone real care?

It was a night when neither side did enough to win it yet North End nearly did with the penalty.

Two inches to the left and Whiteman would have been running off celebrating in front of 516 travelling fans.

The fact that PNE didn’t particularly fire going forward attracted plenty of comment from fans.

While it wasn’t the first time the Lilywhites had failed to score under Ryan Lowe – they didn’t at Swansea either – we have quickly become accustomed to an attacking approach from Lowe.

For whatever reason, that didn’t click in the capital on Tuesday night.

Some pleasing on the eye passing sequences tended to fade out before the ball got to the forward third.

Millwall’s 3-4-3 system was solid and left few gaps for North End to exploit.

Hence the penalty turned into an ‘if only’ moment for the PNE faithful.

Had it gone in, would it have sufficed for victory?

With how blunt Millwall looked going forward, I would argue it would.

In my report from the game, I did remark that it should not turn into any sort of witch hunt against Whiteman for missing.

He struck it well, the pace on the ball best demonstrated by how quickly it came off the post and flashed back across the goalmouth.

Had there been any sort of scuff on the shot, the rebound could quite easily have fallen kindly for a PNE player following up.

There were questions on social media as to why it was Whiteman who took it in the absence of Daniel Johnson.

I can only assume there is some kind of pecking order in place from practice in training.

Emil Riis for some people was the obvious choice, given he’s bang in form in terms of goals and has bagged twice from the spot for PNE.

Another taker suggested was Ched Evans, albeit he missed his last penalty at Cardiff last February.

Whiteman used to take them at Doncaster and in a Preston shirt he successfully tucked one away at Celtic in pre-season.

Tuesday’s was the fourth penalty given North End’s way this season.

Johnson scored from the spot at Reading in August and more recently at Cardiff in the FA Cup.

Riis put his away against Luton in October, a game Johnson was named on the bench for. Johnson is now back in the country after being on international duty with Jamaica and available for penalty-taking duty.

DJ was missed against Millwall and not just for his accuracy from 12 yards.

North End got by without him perfectly well at West Bromwich Albion, playing Ryan Ledson and Alan Browne in front of the deeper sitting Whiteman.

Against Bristol City last Saturday, Ledson was off his game and it needed Ali McCann to join the action in the second half to help get PNE into the game.

Ledson and McCann got the nod at Millwall, with Browne rested on the bench.

For me, Johnson and Browne together offer the best attacking threat. Take them both out and there’s not quite the same dynamic.

Browne’s benching in midweek, so too that of Patrick Bauer, was done by Lowe with fitness in mind.

Bauer had started every game under Lowe, Browne all but the Cardiff cup tie.

With another away game at Hull on Saturday, then Wednesday’s Deepdale clash with Huddersfield, followed by the Peterborough trip, there was some forward planning going on in Lowe’s thinking.

Liam Lindsay proved a capable deputy on the night for Bauer, putting in an assured display at the back.

He was the 22nd player to be used by Lowe, the PNE manager keen to have a look at his squad.

One player Lowe and the rest of us have not had chance to see yet in a match is Bambo Diaby.

After more than two months on trial at Euxton, the big fella put pen to paper on a short-term contract on deadline day.

It’s a low-risk signing and offers him the chance to earn a better and longer deal.

Diaby isn’t being paid a big wage, after two years out of the game after being handed an anti-doping ban, he wasn’t really in a position to demand terms on parity to others in the squad.

He can continue to try and impress, doing so now from a position as an official PNE player rather than a trialist.

With Jordan Storey now on loan at Sheffield Wednesday until the end of the season, Diaby provides cover at the back.

In football parlance, Diaby fits the description of being a ‘unit’ and it will be interesting to see how he goes over the coming months.

Lowe took the 24-year-old to London in the week and put him on the bench as defensive cover, so Diaby is clearly in his thinking and not just there to make the numbers up.

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