Dave Seddon’s Preston North End Press View: The ‘Wow’ factor’s back!

Part of Ryan Lowe’s remit at Preston North End is to entertain the Deepdale faithful.

By Dave Seddon
Friday, 21st January 2022, 4:45 pm

Every manager is tasked with winning matches but there was a definite emphasis on entertainment and excitement when Lowe took over the PNE hotseat.

Lowe had done that at Bury and Plymouth and that was among the things which caught North End’s eye.

On Tuesday night against Sheffield United, the supporters certainly got value for money with the entertainment on offer.

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Emil Riis celebrates scoring the equaliser on Tuesday evening against Sheffield United

While the first half was a struggle for Lowe’s men, in the second they played some terrific stuff to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 2-2 draw.

In its raw form on paper, a 2-2 draw looked a decent night’s work only.

But that didn’t tell the full story, did it? That North End went in at half-time two goals down and a man down after Andrew Hughes’ red card.

That they didn’t put their 10 men behind the ball and go for damage limitation.

That they scored two excellent team goals, the equaliser coming in the 89th minute in front of a giddy Alan Kelly Town End.

PNE only got a point for their efforts but it was a big point and a big night.

Lowe and the fanbase were already taking nicely to one another, by 9.50pm on Tuesday it was total togetherness.

It wasn’t a demonstration from Lowe of what his side could do in the 3-1-4-2 system he favours, by reason of his left sided centre-half being sat in the dressing room for 50 minutes of the game.

Instead 10 men in a couple of different formations found a way to pull level with a Blades side whose first-half performance was the best I had seen at Deepdale from a visiting side this season, if not a lot longer.

It wasn’t PNE loading the box and just pumping a succession of high balls in, with the hope something would drop their way.

The first goal was crafted from a throw-in, worked by Ched Evans and then Daniel Johnson into the path of Alan Browne who finished well.

For the second, North End won the ball on halfway as United looked to play the percentages to keep it out of their own half.

Patrick Bauer’s clearing header was collected by Browne who drove forward and played a pass to the supporting Evans.

The Welshman’s cross took out the visiting defence and step forward – or rather slide forward – Emil Riis to apply the finishing touch.

Throughout the second half and at the final whistle, the PNE faithful showed their appreciation of what they’d seen.

Social media has been a pleasant place to be of late, such a contrast to the toxicity of the autumn.

Obviously we don’t want Lowe’s men to make a habit of falling 2-0 behind, 10 men or not.

However, we saw that the manager could plot a route back and do it in a thrilling manner.

It was the latest test in Lowe’s few weeks in charge, another box ticked.

Those tests were his first game in charge which he won against Barnsley, his first away game which he also won at Stoke.

Cardiff was his first fly in the ointment, a tepid defeat in an empty stadium which saw Preston exit the FA Cup.

The Birmingham game last week should have been won narrowly, instead they were pegged back late on.

North End got the same reward for fighting back in midweek, but did it in a completely different way,

Lowe will continue to face tests, plenty of them in the next few weeks as catch-up is played after the Christmas postponements.

The trip to Swansea is followed by Wednesday’s away game at West Bromwich Albion.

It’s back home to face Bristol City next Saturday ahead of a midweek visit to The Den to play Millwall.

They go to Hull and back on February 5, welcome Huddersfield to Deepdale and then it’s off to Peterborough.

Only then can we draw breath and have a clear midweek to assess where North End are up to.

Lowe says he has learned plenty in his six weeks in charge – positions, players’ character, who trains well.

A big section of the team is picking itself at the moment but the wing-back slots seem to be an area Lowe is having to juggle to find the right fit.

Ali McCann and Brad Potts have played in the right wing-back slot, Browne briefly in Lowe’s first game.

On the other side, Josh Earl, Greg Cunningham and Tom Barkhuizen have had a turn there.

Wing-back is becoming a specialist role, it not just a case of throwing a full-back or winger in there to do a job.

Lowe wants his high up the pitch, operating more as a winger rather than anything too defensive.

Hence Matthew Olosunde is still waiting for his chance and Joe Rafferty’s first game under Lowe only came on Tuesday as a half-time sub.

A word for Rafferty at this juncture, I thought he was solid and reliable in his 45 minutes against Sheffield United.

If North End are to do any business in the January transfer window, you can see Lowe putting a wing-back as high priority.

Another striker wouldn’t go amiss either, the word from the Midlands being that North End are keen on Aston Villa’s young frontman Cameron Archer.

The Deepdale budget has so far made it a quiet month in terms of incoming business.

Having 29 senior players on the books means the wage bill is at budget, with a reduction in numbers needed to free up space.

A saving will have been made with Jordan Storey’s loan move to Sheffield Wednesday, with the Owls picking up part of the salary tab.

Adam O’Reilly’s switch to St Patrick’s Athletic until the summer won’t have made much of a dent.

So it could need a couple more out yet before it allows some incoming deals to be done. The deadline is a week on Monday, plenty of time yet for things to happen.