Five talking points from Preston North End's defeat to Fulham at Craven Cottage
February ended on a losing note for Preston North End as they were beaten by Fulham at Craven Cottage.
They remain in sixth place in the Championship but are entering a key month with four games before the international break.
Dave Seddon looks at some of the talking points to arise from defeat in London.
1. No Pearo, no party. The teamsheet was missing Ben Pearson’s name and will be doing so for the next month due to a hamstring injury.
This was perhaps a game when North End covered his loss in the sense that Alan Browne filled the holding role and did that rather well.
In the first half the midfield and attack pressed well together to get on top of Fulham.
But Pearson will be missed in these next few weeks with him being arguably one of the best midfielders of his type in the Championship.
2. The re-jigging of the midfield saw a start for Brad Potts, only his ninth in the league this season.
He wasn’t in to deputise for Pearson, with Browne in that role and Daniel Johnson as the ‘eight’.
Potts played higher up the pitch and did that job well, three or four times going on strong runs to carry Preston forward.
The 25-year-old hasn’t had the best of seasons and a pre-season injury clearly did him no favours.
His display at Fulham was similar to what we saw from him when he joined from Barnsley last January.
3. Missing chances proved costly as always.
This was a third game out of four that North End had failed to score.
In all three, especially against Millwall and Fulham, PNE were wasteful early on.
Think back also to the Hawthorns clash when David Nugent put two first-half headers wide.
Against Fulham, North End worked themselves into some good areas in the first half – Potts, and Browne (twice) having shots.
Other moves took them into promising areas but the final ball wasn’t quite there.
PNE have shown that they know where the net is but need to step on the gas again in front of goal.
In terms of out-and-out strikers, options are limited to Nugent, Jayden Stockley, Tom Barkhuizen or Sean Maguire – the latter two preferred more often than not in wider areas.
It might be that the QPR game is one for Stockley after being used off the bench in recent games.
4. A case for the defence.
Patrick Bauer handled the threat of Aleksandar Mitrovic throughout the game, this only the second time in six appearances the Serb had failed to score against PNE.
Having managed that, it just added to the frustration felt when they conceded Nugent’s own goal and the second on the break in stoppage time.
Ben Davies and Darnell Fisher were also strong at the back, Fisher especially so in the right-back berth.
He was a player keen to prove a point after his red card was the previous turn was overturned.
5. They came over land and sea.
PNE’s away support numbered 1,964 at Fulham and several hundred were aboard two boats hired to sail them down the Thames.
It was excellent support on the road – and water – as ever.
The next away game at Luton is sold out too. The support will be vital.