Dave Seddon's verdict: Preston North End 1 Rotherham United 2 - A touch of reality after deadline-day giddiness
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Football had almost been a sideshow during the window with the focus on wheeling and dealing.
Eight players signed and eight leaving, averaged out at a deal every couple of days.
In reality, much of the business was done early and late in the window with a pause in the middle.
The burst of activity in the final few days probably raised as many questions as it did answering them in terms of how North End would shape in the aftermath.
It was refreshing to see Premier League youngsters of the ilk of Anthony Gordon and Sepp van den Berg coming to Deepdale.
However, the departure of the two Bens – Davies and Pearson – was always going to leave big holes to fill.
Rotherham were the side to bring a touch of realism to the last few days.
Whether on the balance of play and chances the Millers deserved to take the three points to South Yorkshire, is debateable to say the least.
But the 2-1 scoreline shows they did, completing a league double over North End for the first time since the 1990/91 season.
The generous Lilywhites gave them a helping hand with some poor defending.
It fact the opening goal was gift-wrapped inside 17 seconds.
Joe Rafferty sent a diving header into his own net when trying to cut out a shot as the visitors swept forward from taking kick-off.
They didn’t exactly make things difficult either for the second goal after half-time.
Aside from that, North End’s play wasn’t too bad. In fact some of their attacking play was very good.
Only once did they breach the Rotherham defence though, legitimately that is.
Ched Evans got off the mark to halve the deficit and cap a very decent showing in his first Preston start.
Scott Sinclair was later to put the ball in the net only for the assistant to raise his flag having judged him to be offside when moving on a pass from Daniel Johnson.
Whatever your take of the game was, whether PNE were unlucky, the authors of their own misfortune or wasteful in their finishing, this was an eighth Championship defeat at Deepdale.
Only Birmingham have lost more on their own patch, thank goodness then for the seven away victories.
The defensive lapses were the talking point of the game, the reason after all that the hosts were left empty-handed.
What they overshadowed was a better attacking show from North End.
This was a contest where Alex Neil’s men carved-out some very decent chances.
Evans forced a fine save from Viktor Johansson, the goalkeeper later to deny Tom Barkhuizen who should have buried that opportunity.
Ben Whiteman couldn’t do much more with a free-kick which hit the inside of the far post, struck Johansson on the back and rolled wide of the other post.
Factor in Evans’ goal and a couple of other half chances, and Preston were more productive than they had been for quite a while.
The back story of the game though, was Rafferty’s early howler and then how Rotherham cut them open for the second goal.
Rafferty was playing due to the absence of Alan Browne with an injury, Browne now considered first-choice right-back after the sale of Darnell Fisher.
The back four certainly had a different look about it, Rafferty having the company of Paul Huntington, Liam Lindsay and Andrew Hughes.
It was Lindsay’s debut after his loan move from Stoke, this his first competitive game for more than 12 months.
Van den Berg was to debut later, coming on for Huntington as North End chased the game.
Gordon, on loan from Everton, was another debutant on the left-wing.
It was hard not to be drawn to Gordon, an exciting talent with the potential to get fans off their seats – virtually still rather than in the ground.
The teenager was prepared to run at defenders, he put himself forward to take some of the set pieces, he was good to watch, a bit different.
Gordon faded during the second half, hence the reason for being substituted as part of a triple change just after Evans had found the net.
Him being taken off didn’t go down too well with the fans watching at home.
For me, the lad certainly did enough for inclusion from the start again at Blackburn. Give him a bit of freedom and Gordon could well shine in this team.
It was with disbelief that North End fell behind in the circumstances they did.
Rotherham took kick-off, with them working the ball out their right wing.
Jayson Molumby slid in on Wes Harding, the referee playing advantage as Lewis Wing took possession.
Wing’s pass inside found Freddie Ladapo, his shot from the edge of the box hitting Lindsay’s boot.
It was going wide, however Rafferty – perhaps mindful George Hirst was lurking behind him – threw himself at the ball to head clear and could watch in horror as the ball wrong-footed Daniel Iversen on its way into the net.
Evans met a Rafferty cross with a header which forced Johansson to dive and push it away. A couple of minutes later, Ryan Ledson dropped a delightful ball over the Millers defence which Barkhuizen put too close to keeper.
The visitors made it 2-0 in the 55th minute, Ladapo’s pass playing Wing into space down the left side of the box.
There were seven Preston players in the penalty area but the ball still found substitute Ben Wiles who drove home.
Evans, who showed up well in his ability to hold the ball up and bring others into play, got one back 10 minutes later.
Ledson rolled a corner short to Gordon, took the return ball and lifted a cross into the middle.
Evans jumped with the keeper and was the first to the loose ball to turn it home on the turn from six yards.
Although it came with 25 minutes to play, his tidy finish was to prove only a consolation as Preston ran out of attacking craft.
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