Fans’ Panel: John Roper says the final ball was again a missing ingredient in PNE’s defeat at Hillsborough

I seem to be starting off Fans’ Panel reviews with this sentence quite regularly but here goes – another disappointing afternoon for North End with a lacklustre and poorly managed performance against Sheffield Wednesday.

By John Roper
Sunday, 31st January 2021, 12:30 pm

The home side won the game by a single goal scored in the final minute of the first half and PNE never really created enough pressure in the final third to warrant anything from the game.

An even first half with a decent 20-minute spell for Preston but a second half of frustration with the visitors being very light in the tackle and not being able to out-muscle a very well organised Wednesday side who deserved this victory.

I think the disappointment is enhanced by the quality of the opposition as this was one of the poorest Owls sides I have seen in a while, yet they had more than enough to beat a North End side devoid of creativity and enterprise on this cold January afternoon.

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Ben Davies clears off the line at Hillsborough

Just one change to the PNE side who drew at home to Reading last Sunday lunchtime with Andrew Hughes coming back in at left-back to replace Joe Rafferty.

The home side started the brighter and had three half-chances early but no serious effort on goal to speak of. North End then started to impose themselves on the game but once again the shots-on-target tally was low. Whiteman had a shot easily saved and a Sinclair effort didn’t trouble the keeper.

Unfortunately we seemed to ease off in the last five minutes of the half and we lost possession in midfield in the final minute of the half.

Huntington cleared the resulting cross but from the throw-in we defended poorly and Palmer forced the ball over the line to give the Owls the lead in the final minute of the first half.

No changes for Alex Neil at half time but surely a change in tactics to try and break down the home defence.

Alas there was nothing really forthcoming for North End even though we had several half-chances early on in the second period through Riis, Whiteman and Potts, the last of which was easily saved by Westwood in the home goal.

Halfway through the second half Johnson and Barkhuizen were thrown in replacing Ledson and Potts but offered little in terms of threat.

I think commenting about the transfer window and the comings and goings would just confuse the issue because we have seen this type of performance quite a number of times this season.

I was hoping the manager would change the formation after the break or do something because we were easily snuffed out of this game.

Sinclair and Potts, in particular, looked lightweight down the sides and our midfield three didn’t play one final telling ball all afternoon.

At the back I though Ben Davies was only average by his standards and we had to thank Paul Huntington for a couple of last-ditch tackles late on in the game. In the five league games in January we have only conceded four goals which is fine however we have only scored one so it doesn’t need a genius to work out where our problems lie.