Dave Seddon's verdict: Preston North End's Jekyll and Hyde personality shows through in Deepdale defeat to Millwall
Preston North End’s Jekyll and Hyde existence continued as they suffered more Deepdale misery at Millwall’s hands.
This season the Lilywhites have flipped between being excellent on the road and poor on home turf.
The hard graft which has gone into accumulating 10 points from away games is being undone by results at headquarters.
Four straight home defeats in the league without scoring a goal is a dreadful run and indeed very concerning.
How can a side which has played so impressively away, hit the wall in the manner they are doing at home?
PNE manager Alex Neil and his players insist they have not developed a complex about playing at Deepdale, but the longer they go without a win will only add to the theory that they are.
The defeats are following a pattern, little in the games until a spell just before or after half-time when the opposition counter to score.
Swansea, Cardiff and now Millwall, have all scored in the opening nine minutes of the second half.
Stoke netted their winner six minutes before the interval.
The one difference in Wednesday night’s reverse was that the Lions went on to score a second goal, doing so with a late penalty.
Although there was some merit in the claim that North End deserved something out of the three previous home matches, this was not the case against Millwall.
The visitors were well worthy of the three points they took back to South London.
They were the better side throughout, their shape one which suited them, their passing superior.
North End registered just one shot on target all night, that an effort from substitute Tom Barkhuizen which keeper Bartosz Bialkoswki came off his line to save well.
Set-up in a 3-4-3, Millwall swept forward on the counter almost effortlessly, much of their play starting with Ryan Woods – red-haired and orange-booted – stationed in front of their back three.
They racked-up 13 chances, five of those on target, far more potent than the hosts.
Perhaps there was some mitigation of PNE’s part that a few players were feeling under the weather due to a stomach bug doing the rounds.
It forced Patrick Bauer out of the game at half-time and some of his team-mates looked laboured in their play.
What left North End fans watching on iFollow or via the red button, shaking their heads was how such a display came on the back on very good wins at Huddersfield and Queens Park Rangers.
In those games, Neil’s men had picked holes in their opponents, entertained and put chances away.
They’d done likewise in the second half at Brentford at the start of the month.
At home things have been so different and it wasn’t long into the Millwall game that you sensed which direction the contest would be going in.
Brad Potts’ free-kick which slammed into the wall in the 11th minute was their only chance of note of the first half.
Going in goalless at the break, one wrong turn in the second half had the potential to take the game away from them.
So it proved as Kenneth Zohore finished off a counter-attack. Jed Wallace’s penalty late on made certain on the points although it is likely that one goal would have sufficed.
PNE had been unchanged from Huddersfield, although were back in a 4-2-3-1 system after going 3-4-1-2 at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Could three at the back which allows the security of three midfielders and a threat of two up front be worth a look at in home matches?
The deadlock was broken in the 54th minute, a ball out of defence bouncing through to Mason Bennett in his own half. He turned Alan Browne who had got caught wrong side and drove forward.
Bennett slipped a pass to Jed Wallace inside the box who squared first time for Zohore to side-foot home. Zohore, on loan from West Bromwich Albion, was one of the many strikers to interest PNE in the transfer window.
When Murray Wallace was clipped from behind by Barkhuizen as he drew his foot back to shoot in the 84th minute, referee Darren Bond gave a penalty. Maybe it was on the soft side but that is how things are at Deepdale just at the moment.
Jed Wallace sent Declan Rudd the wrong way from the spot to complete a miserable night for Preston.
They are back at home again on Saturday to play Birmingham City, a must-win game in only to stop this miserable sequence in PR1.
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