Dave Seddon's verdict: Blackburn Rovers 1 Preston North End 0 - Inconsistency is hitting PNE's results and performances

Inconsistency it seems isn’t restricted to Preston North End’s results, it’s hitting their in-game performance levels.

Sunday, 5th December 2021, 8:00 am

The Lilywhites have been up and down like a fiddler’s elbow with their scorelines this season, the last three matches summing them up perfectly – win, draw, defeat.

Of late that has transferred itself into the games themselves, you are never quite sure which PNE will turn up from one half-hour to the next.

A fortnight ago against Cardiff, a decent first-half show gave way to something a lot poorer in the second.

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Preston North End and Blackburn Rovers players come together during the derby at Ewood Park

That was flipped on its head at Middlesbrough, a poor opening hour followed by a rewarding late rally.

It took them half an hour to get going against Fulham before finding a higher gear and earning a deserved point.

On Saturday afternoon in the East Lancashire rain, North End were decent for 45 minutes of this derby.

They were a different beast in the second half, shorn of creativity and attacking nous.

PNE striker Ched Evans appeals for handball to referee Gavin Ward late on at Ewood Park

Blackburn, who had been slow to adapt to the conditions on home turf, got a half-time rocket and responded to it.

Ben Brereton Diaz who these days doubles as a Chile international, broke the deadlock with a fine header in the 53rd minute.

That was a blow but it still left the Lilywhites with 37 minutes plus stoppages – there were five minutes added on – to find an equaliser.

The fact they didn’t muster a proper chance on goal in that chase was both infuriating and concerning.

PNE skipper Alan Browne goes back Blackburn's Ryan Nyambe

Credit to Blackburn for their control of the game when in possession of that lead but that still didn’t hide North End’s shortcomings.

Saying that, the visitors could feel aggrieved not to have been awarded a penalty late on when Josh Earl’s cross was clearly handled by Ryan Nyambe.

Clear except to referee Gavin Ward who didn’t see Nyambe’s arm move to block the ball.

That probably added to the frustration of the afternoon which yielded a second derby defeat in six weeks.

PNE's Greg Cunningham tackles Blackburn striker Ben Brereton Diaz

This was a different kettle of fish to the Blackpool reverse but the same outcome – nil points.

The PNE faithful’s discontent therefore continues. Their side sit 18th in a division which for the most part looks average.

The top two of Fulham and Bournemouth – from who North End have taken four points – are the stand-outs.

You could argue that the current bottom three might well be the trio to drop down, with the rest in between much of a muchness.

Blackburn are fourth but for a lot of this clash didn’t resemble a side chasing the play-offs.

It was PNE who mastered the conditions in the first half.

The pitch was very wet, in fact in parts it was waterlogged – to the extent questions were asked about whether the game could start.

North End moved the ball better for 45 minutes, either avoiding the water totally by keeping it off the floor or getting plenty of support around a team-mate on the ball to make sure a pass didn’t have to travel far and stop in a puddle.

They didn’t create a great deal in the first half but there were two chances which could have given them the lead.

Alan Browne – Preston’s best player on the day – ran on to a Ched Evans pass early on but dragged a shot wide.

Later in the half, Evans met a corner played in low by Ben Whiteman to the near post but his shot was saved by Aynsley Pears.

The rain eased by the interval and PNE’s creativity dried up.

Brereton Diaz won it for Rovers when he got across Liam Lindsay on the corner of the six-yard box and angled a header across goal into the far corner – Reda Khadra having bent in a right-foot cross from the left-wing.

The home side were then able to take the sting and tempo out of the contest and that was to the detriment of North End.

Frankie McAvoy left it late to change approach in terms of trying to find an equaliser.

Not until the 78th minute did the PNE head coach make his first two substitutions and switch to 4-3-3.

Off went Ali McCann and Greg Cunningham, on came Daniel Johnson and Scott Sinclair.

McAvoy had Sean Maguire up his sleeve as a third sub but was forced to take off debutant Matthew Olosunde with an injury and put Ryan Ledson on at right-back.

That last sub was in the 82nd minute so how long would Maguire have got anyway even had Olosunde not pulled up?

The first two subs and change of formation didn’t make the difference required, the one thing you could say was that the penalty appeal came after the changes.

That appeal was made by both the players and 4,330 PNE fans at that end.

Numbers were down on previous visits to Blackburn but the contingent was about half of last week’s crowd at Deepdale – an impressive percentage choosing to venture along the M65.

North End’s unsuccessful chase of an equaliser asked questions of McAvoy’s tactics and the quality they have going forward.

At 2pm though, the other end of the pitch had come under the spotlight.

The defence had a different look to it than of late, Jordan Storey, Lindsay and Cunningham the back three.

Olosunde was the right wing-back, Earl on the left.

Sepp van den Berg, Tom Barkhuizen and Andrew Hughes were missing, Patrick Bauer only making the bench.

The backline made a good fist of keeping Blackburn out, save for that critical moment of Brereton Diaz scoring.

Lindsay let his man run across him, with Khadra unchallenged when delivering the cross.

PNE were never out of the game with just a single goal deficit but nor did they look convincing in salvaging it.

Something has to change, this one step forward and a couple back scenario cannot continue. From somewhere North End need to find a consistent run, go four or five matches unbeaten.

If not, the discontentment is only going to grow.

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