Dave Seddon’s PNE pressview: Preston fans...and boss Alex Neil...are longing for some consistency

Oh for some stability to Preston North End’s results after the up-and-down nature of the season so far.

By Dave Seddon
Saturday, 28th November 2020, 8:00 am

They head to Watford this weekend having played 13 games, with a record of five wins, a solitary draw and seven defeats.

The only real pattern to the results so far is that North End have been dreadful at Deepdale but rather tidy on their travels.

That it took to the fifth home game to score a goal and the sixth to record a victory, is an eye-opener.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Preston North End manager Alex Neil must be puzzled by his side's inconsistent form

Equally on the road, to have started with a draw at Norwich and then won four on the bounce is impressive.

Only then did they suffer defeat at Rotherham before the international break.

Bar the contrast in the home and away form, there’s been no real shape to the Lilywhites’ results.

In the Championship only once have they lost two on the bounce and only once have they won back-to-back matches.

Apart from the Norwich draw, it’s been a win or lose story, no in between.

It’s proving an emotional roller coaster for the PNE faithful in a period when life is testing enough.

Rather than the football being a distraction, the faithful are up and down like a fiddler’s elbow as they try to retain an attachment via iFollow and the red button.

For example, there’s been the joy of the 3-0 victory at Reading – then the leaders of the division – sandwiched in between a home defeat to Birmingham and the visit to Rotherham.

Although last week’s clash with Sheffield Wednesday was anything but a thriller, it did at least produce the first league win on home soil.

Within three days, the relief got from those three points was wiped away by the derby defeat to Blackburn.

It was wiped away with some ferocity too, in my view it being the worst home defeat of Alex Neil’s time in charge.

Not only was it the biggest losing margin in a league game at Deepdale under Neil, I cannot recall anything as tame and poor as Tuesday night’s performance.

Scoreline wise, the 3-0 had only been matched by Manchester City in the Carabao Cup last season.

That was hardly a disgrace but losing in the manner they did to Rovers was painful.

As poor as North End were, I must say how well the East Lancashire visitors played – bossing the game from first whistle to last.

I don’t think there was a section of the game or an area of the pitch where PNE had any sort of grip.

The pattern of results, or rather lack of one, is trying the patience of some fans in respect of Alex Neil.

Social media has been on the wild side after recent defeats, none more so than Tuesday evening.

Naturally it is quieter following a victory but the win/lose sequence means anguish and outbursts are always just around the corner.

Hence some stability needs to be found to stop emotions being dragged all over the place.

It is not healthy for every defeat to be followed by a call for the manager’s head but that will carry on being the way unless some consistency can be found.

Venting the spleen on social media is at the moment the only way fans can be heard.

With grounds having been shut since March and in Tier 3 remaining closed for goodness knows how much longer, how else do supporters get their voice across?

Should PNE return with something to show for their efforts at Watford and Bournemouth, things could well have calm down.

Then come two home games against Wycombe and Middlesbrough which would be a test of proving that they have some consistency in them.

Just returning the theme of the Blackburn defeat, there was an inevitability that Tyhrys Dolan would find the net against his former club.

With the visitors 2-0 to the good, the ex-PNE scholar was introduced to the action in the 68th minute.

Dolan is not the tallest lad in the world but he seemed to loom large when stood on the touchline waiting to come on.

He turned Darnell Fisher inside out a couple of times as an introduction, then swept home a close-range finish.

That performance and some of his others in the Blackburn team this season have re-opened the debate about the pathway from youth team to first-team at North End.

There is a pathway but it is a tough one to walk along for any young player.

Missing in the middle is an Under-23s or some sort of reserve side in order for lads to find their feet in the full-time game.

PNE argue that to have a reserve side which divert money away from the first-team budget.

The other side of the coin is that some promising talent might be lost as a result.

Dolan is an example of that, he was released and moved on to sign for Rovers’ Under-23s squad.

When he was added to the first-team squad for training one day during pre-season, he seized his chance and hasn’t looked back,

A lot of players will have had rejections along the way in their careers, that is the nature of professional sport.

Dolan does seem to be one who has got away, or was given away, and is looking like forging a career elsewhere.

The last couple of games have seen a smattering of youth-team players given a chance in and around the first-team squad.

That is due to the current crop of injuries and the need to fill the nine-man bench.

If little went right the other night against Rovers, it was heartening to see three young lads on the bench in the shape of Adam O’Reilly, Jacob Holland-Wilkinson and Lewis Coulton – the latter two second-year scholars.

They might well have gone on the train to Watford to give Neil enough bodies in the squad, it will all be good experience for them.