Four talking points from Preston North End's defeat to Queens Park Rangers

A four-game unbeaten run has given way to four defeats on the bounce for Preston North End.

Sunday, 8th December 2019, 6:00 am
Preston centre-half Paul Huntington lands on the floor after challenging for the ball in the Queens Park Rangers box

The Lilywhites were beaten 2-0 by Queens Park Rangers on Saturday, Ebere Eze scoring in either half for Mark Warburton’s men.

Here are four of the talking points from the clash at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium - the renamed Loftus Road.

1. For the last couple of weeks North End haven’t been able to buy a win and a big worry in among that run is that they have forgotten how to score.

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PNE winger Tom Barkhuizen sends over a cross against QPR

They have now gone 400 minutes without a goal, a run stretching back to Paul Gallagher’s penalty in the 3-1 win over Huddersfield on October 9.

It is the first time PNE have gone four league games without a goal since the 2011/12 season – they had three 0-0 draws and a 3-0 defeat in that run in February /March 2012.

Against QPR they rarely looked like scoring, Billy Bodin going closest with a volley from the edge of the box which brought a good one-handed save from keeper Joe Lumley.

Other than that, Lumley had a comfortable afternoon as the hosts kept their first clean sheet of the campaign.

Preston manager Alex Neil makes his point to one of the assistant referees

North End had started with Jayden Stockley up front, Tom Barkhuizen and Sean Maguire wide of him.

Stockley’s substitution briefly saw Barkhuizen go up front before David Nugent came off the bench to lead the attack.

The service up to them wasn’t up to the necessary standard.

2. Injuries have bitten hard, this latest pile-up mirroring those of last season and the campaign before.

At QPR, North End were missing their first-choice centre-backs Patrick Bauer and Ben Davies and their two most creative midfielders Daniel Johnson and Paul Gallagher.

Darnell Fisher again sat this one out, although the return of Andrew Hughes did at least allow the release of Alan Browne from defensive duties and back into the midfield.

In some areas, the squad does have the numbers to cover injuries. But whether there is the depth in quality when absences are concentrated in a particular position, you have to question.

Is there an end in sight to the injuries? Alex Neil keeps his cards close to his chest on that score so it is something of a guessing game.

3. If it is still going to be a game or two before more of the walking wounded get back, might a re-jig of the team be in order to try and spark a reaction to get PNE back on a more even keel?

With Gallagher out, should the door open for Tom Bayliss to get a game? Is it time to see Josh Harrop and Bodin start, Nugent too?

It is Fulham up next who will provide a stern test at Deepdale on Tuesday night, although they travel north on the back of a home defeat to Bristol City.

4. After being awarded and scoring eight penalties this season, the boot has been on the other foot for Preston of late.

They have conceded three spot kicks in the last four games, goalkeeper Declan Rudd penalised for the last two.

The one against West Bromwich Albion last Monday was clearly the wrong decision, with both Alex Neil and Paul Huntington also claiming the spot kick awarded against them on Saturday was harsh.

Referee Andy Davies did go and consult his assistant before sticking with his decision to point to the spot. Replays were inconclusive but there did look to be some contact between Rudd and Marc Pugh.

Perhaps North End's fortunate was summed up by it being Hughes' attempt to cut out a pass which played the ball into Pugh's path and led to Rudd putting in a challenge.