Preston North End tasted defeat for the first time in the Championship this season as they went down 1-0 at Swansea.
ALSO READ: Dave Seddon's big-match verdict after Preston's defeat at the Liberty Stadium
Jay Fulton’s first-half header settled things on a day that saw Lukas Nmecha, Brandon Barker and Graham Burke make their North End debuts.
There were plenty of talking points as PNE improved after the break but failed to find an equaliser at the Liberty Stadium.
PNE can’t afford to start that slowly again
Ragged and sloppy, it was a really poor opening 45 minutes from Alex Neil’s men. The defence was unusually pulled left and right and the passing, by and large, was poor. The Lilywhites had one let off when Declan Rudd saved from the spot but it failed to spark them into life. Then after the visitors failed to clear their lines Ben Davies could have done better to prevent Fulton from heading home just after the half hour. Rudd was then forced to save from Joel Asoro as North End simply couldn’t get going. All that changed after the interval, but on another day, Swansea could have been out of sight at the break.
Final third still needs fine tuning
The second half saw PNE dominate the ball and create chances. Not a host of clear-cut ones but opportunities nonetheless. Five of their 12 efforts were on target with replacement Swansea stopper Erwin Mulder forced into action by new boy Nmecha amongst others. Still, it was a familiar tale in some respects. For the amount of possession and promising play there should have been a goal or two. Neil has spoken long and hard during his time in charge about getting things right when it matters in and around the box and still PNE lack a real cutting edge at times.
Nmecha will only get better
PNE fans got a first look at Manchester City loanee Lukas Nmecha who was straight in from the start. His attributes are obvious with plenty of pace and power. Like his team mates, the No,45 grew into the game and saw one good chance helped over the bar by Muller in the second half. A moment where he pulled out a challenge with the ‘keeper when he looked to pounce on short back-pass didn’t impress his manager however. Nmecha comes with a lofty reputation and there were flashes of that, even though he had had only had one training session with his new team mates. It will be fascinating to see how he develops in the weeks and months to come.
Rudd plays his part while others struggle
PNE’s No.1 will have been frustrated his save from 12 yards from Oli McBurnie didn’t spark his side into life. Chris Maxwell is a noted penalty saver, another coming against West Ham in pre-season, but it was time for Rudd to join the party at the Liberty Stadium. He revealed post-match that plenty of analysis goes into saving spot kicks, even if on the last six occasions players have changed sides and scored. Not this time though, McBurnie stayed true to recent form and Rudd made a good save low to his left. Other sharp stops followed on a good afternoon for the ‘keeper who just needed a little more help in front of him times.
Pearson the glue that keeps things together
While all around him struggled in the first period, Ben Pearson was the one constant for Preston North End. As combative as ever, the midfielder flew into tackles with his customary gusto in the driving rain as he bid to get PNE going. That they did in the second half and Pearson was again at the heart of things. Underrated on the ball he kept Neil’s men ticking over as they probed and probed and probed without success. Jordan Hugill and Greg Cunningham left for the Premier League, Alan Browne was player of the year but Pearson remains the most influential player at the club.