First-half set-up was a mystery says Preston North End Fans’ Panel’s John Roper

A disappointing defeat for North End to kick off the New Year and my immediate thoughts straight after the game were why did we defend so deep in the first half.

By John Roper
Sunday, 3rd January 2021, 12:30 pm

In the second period when we took the game to Forest we had much more joy albeit we were on the wrong end of the result.

A controversial penalty from Grabban was enough to give the visitors the points but we must count ourselves a little unlucky not to take any thing from the game as we hit the bar twice.

Add to this three good chances that fell to Barkhuizen and Preston will be left wondering how that one got away.

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I thought we were worth a point as Forest looked dangerous on the break but we virtually surrendered the first 45 and I will be interested to hear the manager’s explanation of those tactics.

The conditions were not the best but they were the same for both teams as North End fell to their seventh, yes seventh, home defeat in 12 league games this season.

Manager Alex Neil made three changes to the side that beat Coventry City on Tuesday evening with Bayliss, Ledson and Potts coming in for Browne, Gallagher and Earl. On a slightly icy playing surface both teams were quite tentative in the opening minues of this encounter.

North End matched up the 4-2-3-1 of Forest and although the majority of the first half was played in the middle of the park I thought it was the visitors who looked the more likely as North End defended deep which was rather strange particularly being the home side.

No changes for either side at half-time as PNE started much better and within 10 minutes of the restart Tom Barkhuizen had three chances to give North End the lead.

The first was just over the bar, the second was well saved by the Forest keeper and the third hit the crossbar.

Forest had a half-chance through Ameobi but Barkhuizen then had another chance after 65 minutes which ended up in the hotdog stall in the Town End concourse. The crucial moment came after sixty eight minutes when Fisher conceded a penalty, handling as he went down to try and block a shot.

Grabban scored but North End claimed the ball had hit his left foot on the way in.

Under normal circumstances anyone would reasonably take nine points from the four games over the festive period and it would be slightly churlish to shout the odds after this result.

However I still get back to those seven home defeats and relate that to the tactics the manager adopted in the first half.

Half the season gone and 32 points in the bag, so double that and you could expect to finish about halfway. However with players injured and on the move,

I would take mid-table at the end of the season as we speak.

The upside I suppose is there are now two weeks until the next league game but you just wonder if Davies and maybe Johnson have played their last league game for us as the transfer window is now open.