Defeat to Birmingham was devastating blow to our play-off hopes, Preston fan John Smith reflects on the Easter Monday trip to St Andrew's

If North End’s previous football matches against sides managed by Birmingham boss Gary Rowett had been played at the poker table instead of on the pitch, by now we would have had very few chips left on the green baize table.
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I must admit that I for one was worried pre-match about the Rowett effect before our Easter Monday clash at St Andrew’s.

Unfortunately, these fears proved to be warranted with our bogey manager cleaning us out once again. This devastating 1-0 reverse also dealt a huge blow on on our play-off chances which are now looking as slim as a panatella cigar.

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Frustratingly these could have looked very healthy indeed if we could have got the win we really needed at struggling Birmingham but I left the stadium with a similar deflated feeling to many I have had in the past when we have lost crucial games.

Preston North End's Liam Millar (left) competing with Birmingham City's Ethan LairdPreston North End's Liam Millar (left) competing with Birmingham City's Ethan Laird
Preston North End's Liam Millar (left) competing with Birmingham City's Ethan Laird

It really is so sickening to see North End repeatedly always bottle it when the tough get going at the business end of the season.

This time out, in my opinion, we never really went for broke and played too conservatively and I got the impression we would settle for a point.

I couldn't understand why we did not play Liam Millar from the start as he seemed to me to be our most dangerous player and troubled the home defence when he came on. I also could not understand why we replaced Mads Frojkaer who I think is a far more creative player than his replacement Ben Woodburn.

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The game was played in a virtually packed-out stadium although it did not generate the same partisan atmosphere of past games I've seen when I've been present at this venue.

During a largely tame first half, some of our fans implied that the home fans had only "come for the concert" a nod to the free one being given by Birmingham based band UB40 after the game.

In the second half the tight game opened up slightly as both sides shuffled their packs and made their substitutions.

However, when the home side scored midway through the second half it gave them a strong foothold in the game and also lifted the flat atmosphere .From then on it became an uphill battle for us in our bid to get back into the game.

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The goal itself was a real comedy goal and a disaster of Frank Spencer proportions .It was unlike anything id ever seen before in all my years of watching football.

It came after two of our players slipped on their behinds in quick succession as if they were taking their first ever tentative steps on the ice skating rink with no stabilisers on.

Their untimely tumbles left centre forward Jay Stansfield clean through on goal with the England Under-21 International never looking likely that he would miss as he bore down on the stranded Woodman.

In the stadium, I was sat somewhere near to where I was sitting when a last-minute Ross Wallace strike once gave us a memorable win which also kept our play off hopes intact 15 years ago which was the last time we reached the play-offs at this level. I was clinging to the faint hoping that somehow history might repeat itself

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However apart from a brief flurry in the last minute of injury time we never put the home side under any serious pressure .Although we did huff and puff a little apart from Millar our substitutions were in the main ineffective.

This time last year I was elated after watching a 3-0 win over our "friends" from the seaside .Unfortunately, one year on, after this year’s disappointing April Fools Day defeat I had a far less sweeter taste in my mouth.

It felt like someone had played a prank on me and had filled the sugar bowl up with salt whist I was having my morning cereals .

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