Dave Seddon's verdict: Preston North End 0 Brentford 5 - A sting in the tail inflicts PNE's biggest home defeat since 1973
A biggest home defeat in almost half a century was not on the agenda after such an encouraging start to Frankie McAvoy’s interim stewardship of Preston North End.
How the pendulum of fortune swings in football management/coaching as McAvoy found out against a ruthless Brentford outfit.
On a high after a win and a draw in his first two games, both achieved with goals in stoppage-time, all must have felt good for the interim head coach come 3pm on Saturday.
Even when McAvoy went to do his half-time team talk with the Lilywhites trailing 2-0, it wasn’t all doom and gloom.
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A touch unfortunate on the balance of play to be behind, the game didn’t look totally beyond them.
Early in the second half it was stick or twist time in terms of chasing the game.
McAvoy chose to twist and landed on red when he needed it to fall on black. He made a triple substitution which changed system from 3-5-2 to 4-3-3.
That is when the contest really got away from Preston, putting Brentford well into the ascendency.
The Bees stung their hosts with three goals in the last quarter of an hour, showing just why they are the top scorers in the Championship.
It got a bit too easy for them, gaps exploited in the PNE back line almost at will.
They became the first side to put five goals past Preston at Deepdale without reply since Portsmouth in February 1973.
That defeat 48 years ago ended Alan Ball Snr’s tenure as manager.
There won’t be anything as defining as that coming the way of McAvoy. Instead the Scot will use the experience as a learning curve as he continues his journey as the main man on the Deepdale coaching staff.
If he wants to take the interim tag taken off the job title, days like this need to very much be a one-off.
Post-match, McAvoy held his hand up with regards the changes he made mid-game.
Putting on Alan Browne, Scott Sinclair and Anthony Gordon, and switching the formation was made with the best of intentions.
The manner in which McAvoy spoke, expect to see 3-5-2 as the way to go from now on.
Going 4-3-3 in the 53rd minute was designed to try and go man-for-man against Brentford’s three at the back.
It served to leave them exposed behind that front line and the Londoners took full advantage.
Let’s not dive too deep into a pit of gloom though.
McAvoy took over from Alex Neil at the start of the international break knowing his first three games were against teams in the top four, inheriting a side which had taken one point from five matches.
The doomsday scenario was that North End would lose all three games to leaders Norwich, Swansea and Brentford.
Therefore to come out with four points was above expectation and the league table looks better than it did going into Easter.
There’s still work to do, another three points or so to banish any thought of relegation.
As things stand the current bottom three are starting to get cast adrift.
Rotherham do have their matches in hand but this week have to play Tuesday and Thursday as their catch-up schedule starts.
Thursday’s game is against fourth-bottom Coventry which is a cut-throat contest when points will be dropped by one of them or both.
North End were well in this game in the first half even if they were to trail going into the interval.
Both goals conceded had their origins down PNE’s left side, both set up by Brentford’s impressive No.30 Mads Roerslev.
Just as impressive was Tarique Fosu whose pass sent Roerslev down the channel and behind Tom Barkhuizen in the nine minute.
The Dane had the time to put a low cross into the middle where his fellow wing-back Bryan Mbeumo ran fired home from eight yards.
It was a lead doubled with 26 minutes on the clock, this time Mathias Jensen’s pass finding Roerslev down the right of the box.
The cross was again low, Marcus Forss turning it home from close range.
In between North End had chances, the best being a shot from Emil Riis which was on its way in until Roerslev put his knee in the way and took it over the bar.
McAvoy changed things in the 53rd minute after Preston had withstood some early second-half pressure.
Off came Riis – rather unluckily I’d say – Brad Potts and Liam Lindsay.
Sinclair and Gordon were put up front next to Ched Evans, with Browne given the advanced midfield slot.
Meaningful attacks were few and far between after that, Brentford able to counter almost at will.
It became a tough watch as Brentford ended the game as a contest with their third goal in the 76th minute, then went on to score two more.
Fosu having got the ball in acres of space, took on and beat Sepp van den Berg down the side of the box, standing the ball up to the far post for Toney to head home.
Toney turned provider in the 82nd minute, his cut back from the byline to the left of goal giving substitute Sergi Canos the easiest of tap-ins.
Canos played in his fellow sub Emiliano Macondes to drive a powerful shot from the side of the six-yard box into the net off Iversen’s leg with a minute of added-on time gone.
Maybe the late collapse was not too much of a surprise when the make-up of the back four during that last 35 minutes was studied.
Van den Berg at right-back, not his natural position but he has done well there.
In the middle were Jordan Storey and Andrew Hughes, the Welshman more comfortable in a three than a two. Having started the day as a wing-back, Barkhuizen finished it at left-back.
Out of the four, only Storey was in a position he would call his best.
Much for McAvoy to ponder then? Probably not, he had the right system to start with but gambled in a bid to claw back the deficit.
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