LEP columnists John Smith and John Roper discuss the 4-1 loss to Leeds
The good work of picking up four points on the road over the past week was undone with the dismal home defeat to Leeds.
The fixture had all the ingredients for an old-style Boxing Day cracker being a Roses clash witnessed by packed stands and a large away following.
However, by the time the referee blew for full-time on what was the heaviest defeat seen at Deepdale for some time, many of our fans had opted to go home and sample the left over dry turkey rather than stay until the game ended.
Leeds were well organised and took control of the midfield in the first half and soon cruised into a two-goal lead by exposing the large gaps we left in the centre of the park.
However, just as the self proclaimed “Champions of Europe” were seemingly celebrating another three points on their march up the Championship table, my man-of-the-match Marnick Vermijl pulled a goal back and it was game on again for all of four minutes until Leeds restored their two goal advantage.
In the early stages of the second half, we had our best spell of the game and looked to have increased our attacking options following the introduction of Beckford and Hugill.
But the return to the fray of our Wembley hero was shortlived when he was sent off for behaviour more likely to be seen at the Red Kite School of Thai and kickboxing, off Fylde Road.
After being reduced to 10 men any chances of a late comeback were effectively over.
The away fans were of the opinion that we should of gone to the Boxing Day sales instead.
Before we go into the details of another Boxing Day horror story let me say that on the day, Leeds were worthy winners and all credit to them.
A 4-1 scoreline looks quite a thumping on paper but one or two critical moments in the game could have given the scoreline much more respectability.
Jermaine Beckford came back from a three-game ban and plays just three minutes as a sub before he kicks an opponent in the face right in front of the fourth official.
Just how stupid can you get! Previous to this though the visitors could have easily been down to 10 men themselves but, unfortunately, the referee bottled a second yellow card offence having started to produce the yellow from his pocket.
In all honesty, though, we contributed to our downfall and in the general play of the game the visitors were just quicker to the ball and moved it around the pitch quicker.
North End were very mechanical in their movement from midfield and seriously lacked the cutting edge to get anything from the game.
After a fairly mundane start the visitors took the lead when a free kick to the back post and Roofe bundled the ball over the line.
There looked a hint of handball, but the goal stood and it wasn`t much longer before the visitors were two-up when Sacko got the ball, accelerated forward through a missing North End midfield and smashed a return pass from Roofe into the net.
North End had to get the next goal and they did when a ball in from Robinson was nodded down by Simon Makienok for Marnick Vermijl to smash home and put North End back in the game.
It was Leeds who scored next though to retain their two goal advantage when Doukara’s shot hit the post and hit Maxwell before going over the line.
I thought Tom Clarke allowed the striker a little too much room in the box but credit to the forward and North End went in at half-time on the back foot with a two-goal deficit to recover in the second half.
North End came out with much more urgency in the second period and had a huge penalty shout in the the first few minutes of the second half.
Browne and Robinson then had decent chances before Robinson was fouled on the left by Ayling, who had already been booked, but as the ref went to produced the yellow he realised Ayling had been booked for time wasting in the first half and put the card back in his pocket.
North End then made a double substitution bringing on Hugill and Beckford but the game slipped beyond North End with the Beckford sending off and from that moment we were very much up against it.
We did try and force our way back but with the 10 men tiring, it was the visitors who had the final say when Hernandez calmly slotted home with big gaps in the North End defence which just about completed a miserable afternoon for the home fans in a crowd of 21,255.
I think it’s important that we dont over react too much to one poor result because the team have been playing quite well recently.
However, I think Beckford now has a problem, with many fans making the feeling very clear as the disgraced striker once again left the field after being red carded.
North End looked a little jaded and slower to the ball and perhaps the squad does need freshening up in certain areas, and being without our best player for another four games won’t exactly help things.
The 4-1-4-1 didn’t suit the game but the manager gets many many more right than he gets wrong and I am sure he will reflect when he watches the video on exactly what went wrong.
No time to dwell on this reverse though as Sheffield Wednesday are at Deepdale on Saturday and that becomes North Ends top priority.