Dave Seddon's verdict: Wycombe Wanderers 4 Preston North End 1 - PNE lose their way in the fog
Preston North End had such a torrid afternoon in the FA Cup that it got to the point where you hoped the fog might come to their rescue.
Their third-round visit to Wycombe was as good as over by the 25th minute, the time it took the Chairboys to stick three goals into the PNE net.
An Emil Riis penalty just before half-time offered a slim chance of a revival but it was the weather which threatened to be a more likely saviour.
Fog started to roll into one corner of Adams Park during the first half and thickened as the game went on.
It would have been cruel on the hosts had it got dense enough to force the game to be abandoned but things never wandered into that territory.
The game was completed to a conclusion with Gareth Ainsworth’s men adding a fourth goal late on to underline their superiority on the day.
North End might have had more possession, especially in the second half, but little good did that do them.
Barely did they threaten the Wycombe goal in that second 45 minutes and the visitors got exactly what they deserved – nothing.
It added to a few other defeats of late when PNE have been really turned over.
Earlier in the season when they had that run of home defeats, in the main it was them falling on the wrong side of fine margins.
But 3-0 against Blackburn, the same scoreline at Luton, the 4-1 loss to Watford and now this cup exit.
The first-half at Watford aside, they were poor in all of those and well beaten.
It was something of a shadow side which got turned over by Wycombe, the hosts themselves not at full power.
Alex Neil changed seven of his side from last Saturday’s defeat to Nottingham Forest, Ainsworth brought five different faces in this team on the back of losing at home to Middlesbrough.
Wanderers clearly coped better with a changed line-up which perhaps says something about the quality of depth to the Preston squad.
Neil pulled no punches with his words post-match, saying some of those who had been given their chance did little to push their way into his plans for next week’s league visit to Bristol City.
It was in the back four in particular where North End got lost in the mist.
Andrew Hughes was the one defender to survive from the Forest game and even he had a change of position from left-back to centre-half.
Joe Rafferty, Jordan Storey and Josh Earl came in and had games best forgotten, Earl subbed at the interval.
A goal down inside three minutes, two behind by the ninth, and trailing by three by the 25th. There were further chances for Wycombe in between those three to underline how shaky the backline was.
You had to have sympathy for Connor Ripley behind them who despite scooping the ball out of his net four times, didn’t have a bad game.
The goalkeeper won’t win many popularity contests with the PNE fans but on this occasion it would have been harsh to blame him for the loss.
Ripley was in nets instead of the stricken Declan Rudd who will miss the next few months with damaged knee cartilage.
Helping him in the warm-up was Daniel Iversen who was recruited on loan from Leicester City to cover Rudd’s absence.
The Dane has been signed to be first choice but didn’t feature in Buckinghamshire after just one training session with his new team-mates.
As Neil was to remark after the game, Ripley was ‘the last one’ he would point a finger at for what went on at Wycombe.
Had it not been for a few saves, the loss would have been heavier.
Neil was something of a lone figure during the game, with none of his senior coaching staff at the game.
Frankie McAvoy, Steve Thompson and Mike Pollitt were all at home isolating.
It was unlikely to have had any bearing on the result but Neil didn’t have a sound board.
North End simply didn’t give themselves a chance of winning the tie.
They tend to get results when they build into a game but this one was effectively over in a blink of the eye.
Their shape was one not used often, a diamond in midfield with two up front.
Jayson Molumby made his debut on the right side of the diamond, with Tom Bayliss out left, Ryan Ledson the base and Brad Potts at the point.
Riis and Jayden Stockley were paired together up front but had little joy.
Things got a bit better when Paul Huntington and Alan Browne joined the fray as half-time substitutes.
By then, North End were playing for respectability and an outside shot at making it at least interesting.
Neil talked last week that whatever Wycombe had in their armoury wouldn’t come as a surprise.
He was correct in that respect, the hosts direct and full of energy, yet his players weren’t switched on to the danger.
The opening goal saw Admiral Muskwe, get past Earl on the byline and lift a cross to the far post. Fred Onyedinma jumped high above Rafferty who hardly got off the ground, to send a header back across goal into the net.
When Uche Ikpeazu rolled Earl on the right-wing and cut inside, the PNE man clipped him on the edge of the box.
Contact looked just outside, Ikpeazu fell inside and referee Stephen Martin pointed to the spot.
Joe Jacobson struck the penalty down the middle to double the advantage.
It was trebled in the 25th minute, Jacobson’s free-kick headed on to Jason McCarthy down the side of the box.
His pull back teed-up Josh Knight to side-foot home.
When Riis chased Potts’ long ball from the centre circle into the box, he was impeded by keeper Ryan Allsop.
Mr Martin gave a penalty, and deemed a yellow card the correct punishment.
Riis sent him the wrong way from the spot, a glimmer of hope in the 43rd minute.
It proved nothing of the sort, Wycombe’s fourth goal in the 82nd minute coming when Daryl Horgan’s pass played Alex Samuel clear to fire past Ripley.
Ex-PNE man Horgan hit the post with a 20-yard curler four minutes later, Wycombe finishing with a flourish and a place in the fourth round.
North End are left to concentrate on the Championship and what could be an important January in terms of recruitment and contracts.
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