Dave Seddon's verdict: Preston North End 1 Hull City 4 - Fans' Deepdale homecoming tainted by heavy defeat

The Deepdale homecoming for the Preston North End faithful after 17 months couldn’t have gone much worse.

Sunday, 8th August 2021, 8:00 am
Hull goalkeeper Matt Ingram gathers the ball under pressure from Preston striker Ched Evans at Deepdale

A biggest opening day home defeat since 1956 was the welcome back, swiping away the feel good factor of fans being back in the ground.

The pre-match build-up had been excellent, the roof raised for Paul Gallagher’s arrival on the pitch through a guard of honour.

Things were enjoyable for eight minutes, the time it took the Lilywhites to take the lead through Emil Riis.

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Emil Riis is congratulated by Tom Barkhuizen after giving PNE the lead against Hull CIty at Deepdale

Fortunes slid downhill from then on, Hull equalising and then taking the lead.

Two late goals further sliced the hosts open and many North End fans didn’t wait for the final whistle before heading for home or to the new Fan Zone for a consoling pint.

It wasn’t meant to be like this, the expectation being of an enjoyable afternoon as the turnstiles clicked for the first time since March 7, 2020.

A much quoted statement during last season was how much PNE missed their supporters at Deepdale, with it only be late in the campaign when they found some form in an empty stadium.

PNE head coach Frankie McAvoy at the final whistle

On Saturday they had 10,654 of their followers in a 12,452 crowd.

Frankie McAvoy’s men could not make that support count, playing second best to newly-promoted Hull bar that opening eight minutes of the first half and a brief spell early doors in the second.

Nothing is won or lost on the first day, with there being 45 more matches to play.

A tone can be set though, and Preston quickly need to set a different one this week at Mansfield in the Carabao Cup and in the next league game against Reading.

PNE goalkeeper Daniel Iversen is beaten by Hull City's fourth goal

McAvoy, in charge for a competitive game as head coach for the first time after eight matches as interim last season, felt PNE had fallen between two stools in terms of formation.

He went with 3-4-1-2 in the first half and at the interval changed to 4-4-2 with a midfield diamond.

The three at the back fell down in that the wing-backs dropped too deep and the defence became five.

That deprived North End of the help of two players to get them up the pitch.

For their early goal, Tom Barkhuizen had got into space on the right to cross for Emil Riis to score.

After that though, he got pinned back, as did Greg Cunningham on the other side of the pitch.

While holding a numerical advantage in having a back five against Hull’s three-man front line, the visitors’ trio caused all sorts of problems.

McAvoy changed to a back four, making a double half-time substitution to do so.

The Scot felt that briefly gave PNE some extra attacking impetus but damaged them at the back.

Hull netted three times in the second half, with ‘fragile’ being the word McAvoy used more than once post-match.

Either he has to stick with the 3-5-2 and keep the two wing-backs high, or find a way for a back four to be far more secure than it was here.

If he can do one of those two things, we shouldn’t witness this manner of display again. But the alternative is a long season.

It was not McAvoy getting it in the neck so much on social media after the game, more so Peter Ridsdale and Trevor Hemmings.

The view from the stands is that the squad is weaker than last season and a result like that will only lend weight to what the supporters are thinking. Results changed moods and the sooner PNE hit the winning trail, the better.

The starting XI contained few surprises.

Declan Rudd was preferred to Daniel Iversen, the fact the Leicester City loanee had only arrived in the middle of the week meaning he had to settle for the bench.

Iversen got the pitch after 13 minutes after Rudd got an early bang on the head which forced his substitution.

The Dane probably became the first ‘concussion’ sub used in the EFL, the new rule introduced for this season.

It meant PNE could still use three substitutes after Iversen had come on, with Hull therefore granted the use of four subs in all.

The return for Iversen didn’t go as he would have planned, beaten four times.

Two of Hull’s goals went past him with the assistance of deflections, that’s not to take anything away from the visitors.

The occasion had started so well, the atmosphere in the build-up to kick-off better than anything for a while in the pre-pandemic era.

First-team coach Gallagher patted the badge on his tracksuit to the Alan Kelly Town End after walking through a guard of honour.

The cheering got louder when PNE took the lead, the ball worked inside from the left-wing to Alan Browne.

The skipper’s pass found the run of Barkhuizen on the right, Barkhuizen lifting a peach of a cross over the far post which landed on the left foot of the stretching Riis who guided the ball home.

On the front foot with the fans back in, what a perfect start. It was a false dawn.

Rudd had taken a bang on the head before the goal and was only able to continue for a short time after.

You could see Hull get on top and grow in confidence, with Keane Lewis-Potter their main outlet down the left.

The 20-year-old equalised in the 35th minute, running between Barkhuizen and Jordan Storey to meet Richie Smallwood’s pass and slide home a shot on the angle.

Sepp van den Berg and Brad Potts joined the fray for the second half, Cunningham and rather unluckily Riis the men to give way.

Barkhuizen switched up front and forced the keeper into two saves in the first four minutes of the second half.

It was at the other end where further goals came, Smallwood’s 25-yard daisy cutter taking touches off both Browne and Liam Lindsay on its way past Inversen just beyond the hour.

Josh Magennis got on the end of Lewis-Potter curling cross to poke it between Iversen and his near post.

When Tom Eaves chased a ball in the box to the byline and back heeled it to Andy Cannon, the substitute's shot from a tight angle to the right of goal deflected off Storey and flew in to complete the misery.

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