It was not a PNE performance without positives but they did not last the piece and they duly paid the price.
The Lilywhites had the better of the first half but a good spell in the second half saw Rovers’ Chile international glance a header just inside the far post to give his side all three points. TOM SANDELLS looks at four talking points from the defeat.
1. Double derby day defeats.
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With defeat to Blackpool earlier on in the season, PNE seem to be losing their mojo as the derby day kings.
In previous seasons they have thrived on such occasions, particularly against Blackburn, and even extended their success outside of Lancashire with regular wins over Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic.
It is a very bitter pill to swallow.
In fairness to PNE, they did turn up against Rovers, the same cannot be said for Blackpool. They bossed the first half and then faded at Ewood Park.
It may hurt twice as much to lose these games however due to the recent successes – PNE fans have been spoiled in the local bragging rights department.
2. Fine margins.
It is often said that in the Championship the games are decided by the finest of margins, that was of course true at the weekend but luck wasn’t on Preston’s side either. In the first half they twice had very promising attacks thwarted by standing water on the pitch slowing the ball down.
In the second, a very clear penalty was waved away as the ball struck Ryan Nyambe’s arm. On another day, PNE could have walked away winners and you likely wouldn’t have begrudged it, especially with the impact a goal can have as Rovers had not really threatened much until their goal.
The issue that North End face is that if not for those one or two moments in a game, or a set-piece like the penalty, they don’t offer much of a threat.
3. No spark.
I made the point a couple of weeks ago and it still stands still and likely will for some time – a similar point was made last season under Alex Neil – but there is no real spark in this PNE side.
Whether that be the starting XI or the squad as a whole, there is no one who create something from nothing and turn the game on its head.
Emil Riis has moments of brilliance in him, but he must be involved in the game – against Blackburn he was not.
Creativity and craft have been problems for PNE for years, those that already have it cost more than they can pay, and those that may develop need to time to do so.
Neither of which would go down particularly well at the moment.
4. A big match against the Tykes.
Barnsley are next up for PNE and the Lilywhites must show they are not one of the relegation-threatened sides.
Alongside Derby County and Peterborough United, Barnsley could be seen as one of the sides that will likely go down – it could be argued the three places are taken up already.
It is a good game, at home, for North End to flex their muscles a little bit and show that they are a side that should be higher up the table. It is what has been said by the head coach and those in the dressing room.
It is the last home game before Christmas too, so it is a chance to give their fans something to cheer about leading into the festive period.