There were plenty of talking points after a poor Preston North End display saw them slip to defeat against Ipswich at Deepdale.
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Mustapha Carayol’s cool finish 21 minutes in after profiting on Calum Woods’ hesitation ultimately separated the sides on Saturday.
Games like this are still are still a struggle
There have been a few frustrating afternoons at Deepdale this season. Draws against Barnsley, Millwall, Sunderland, Bolton and Birmingham have all been looked on as disappointing given some of North End’s displays against some of the top sides in the second tier. Those stalemates should have pointed to a difficult afternoon against Ipswich but surely Alex Neil’s men would kick on after excellent displays against Wolves and Aston Villa? Sadly not. This was as poor as the Lilywhites have been this season with Ipswich getting their noses in front ideal for Mick McCarthy’s side who then made life very difficult in what turned into an ugly game. Neil’s men have got themselves into a promising position but will have to work out a way to crack the code against sides who are ready to sit in at Deepdale.
PNE can’t miss too many chances in play-off races
At the end of play, with Bristol City’s game at Cardiff still to come on Sunday lunchtime , the wider context was that Preston ended the day as they started. Results elsewhere meant that at the time of writing, North End are three points shy of the play-off places. Hull were 1-0 winners over Sheffield United on Friday night, Blades boss Chris Wilder bizarrely suggesting his side’s top-six bid was over. Sunderland then pegged Middlesbrough back in their derby as a dramatic game at the Stadium of Light ended 3-3. Favours may have been done this time around but PNE really need to be masters of their own destiny after so much good work and know that a couple of bad weekends will result in them having a lot of work to do in the closing weeks of the campaign.
Neil does not mess around
It’s a sight you very rarely see. North End had made a really poor start but even with that, a double substitution on 38 minutes certainly isn’t something you see every Saturday afternoon. Calum Woods and Callum Robinson were hooked with Josh Earl and Josh Harrop brought on. The reality was, as Neil admitted post-match, was that in the long run it made little difference to the outcome. But it certainly made a statement, that there’s no sentiment when it comes to trying to win games of football. Woods was struggling to contain Carayol while Robinson was perhaps more unlucky, especially given his good form in recent weeks.
Huntington isn’t a striker
The sight that perhaps summed up a dismal afternoon for North End was that of Paul Huntington being used as an emergency striker. After his early double sub and switching full backs and wingers, Neil eventually opted to send the giant central defender up front for the final 10 minutes. The PNE boss admitted post-match it was a desperate move and like almost everything else at Deepdale on Saturday, it didn’t work. Louis Moult had again partnered Callum Robinson after his first Championship start at Aston Villa but like so many against the Ipswich, the former Motherwell man had little impact on the game. As for Huntington, he will be hoping he doesn’t need to be employed as an emergency number nine much more in the future.
Garner’s still a firm favourite
The former PNE front man has been battling a knee injury but managed 70 minutes on his Deepdale return on Saturday. There was plenty of mutual respect between former favourite and fans as had been expected. Garner was Garner. Working hard and leading the line well for the visitors having reignited his career this season with Ipswich after his move from PNE to Rangers didn’t go according to plan. As well as the whole-hearted forward play there was the customary bite from the No.14. One tasty challenge on Josh Harrop resulted in a booking and some handbags early in the second half. The only thing that would have made the afternoon worse for North End fans was a goal for Garner as his new side became the first to complete the double over PNE this season.