John Roper’s Fans’ Panel verdict: Apathy of Preston North End fans MUST concern the board

I’m finding it increasingly difficult to be totally objective when formulating my views on North End games these days.

Two sending-offs – including the manager – another away defeat, another game with no goals scored and a 19th defeat from 37 games in what is turning out to be a nightmare of a season.

PNE started the game quite well and for 20 minutes we were the better side with no idea about what was about to happen in the next 30.

A poor own goal followed by a sending off 10 minutes from the break left us with a mountain to climb at the interval.

Middlesbrough’s Marcus Tavernier celebrates scoring his side’s second goal

Alex Neil sent off at half time and another goal conceded within six minutes of the restart meant it was to be another night of misery for North End fans.

Over the 90 minutes I cant fault the effort but you need more than that to make any impact on the Championship and under the present regime we are not extracting that quality from our squad of players.

As expected, Neil made four changes to the team disgraced at Wycombe on Saturday with Lindsay, Gallagher, Potts and Barkhuizen coming in for Huntington, Whiteman, Johnson and Maguire.

The game started quite cagily with both sides really only having a half -hance each in the first 20 minutes.

Van den Berg then had a shot which hit the bar as North End were looking the better side.

However disaster struck just two minutes later when Storey turned a low cross from the right, from Bolasie, into his own net.

It was a poor mistake from the young defender after Preston had played the better football.

Sinclair had the ball in the net but it was ruled out for offside two minutes late.

Then with 10 minutes to go to half time North End went down to 10 men when Alan Browne was sent off for kicking out at Morsy, more in retaliation than anything else.

North End saw the half out comfortably enough but going in at the break it looked a long road back.

The manager was conspicuous by his absence at the start of the second half having been sent off at the end of the first half as the players left the field.

It was going from bad to worse for North End and it wasn’t going to get better anytime soon.

Daniel Iversen made a superb save, only for Tavernier to head Boro into a 2-0 lead just seconds later.

Neil was now directing operations from row five of the main stand but it was all to now avail.

Iversen then made another excellent save and without the big Dane it could have been four or five.

Molumby, Riis, Johnson, Whiteman and, latterly, Rafferty were all introduced at various stages of the second half but to little effect.

To be fair to the 10 men they put the miles in and went right to the end but we lacked quality on the ball and we lacked some leadership on the pitch and, in the end, we could have no complaints with the scoreline for a fourth consecutive away defeat.

No doubt in my mind it is time for a change of direction but whether that will come before the Luton game on Saturday remains to be seen.

No doubt, either, that the game against the Hatters on Saturday afternoon now takes on huge proportions.

There are nine games to go and we need eight points, I think, to be certain of staying up.

After Luton we have a two-week break and the next three games after that are Norwich, Swansea and Brentford.

We are not down in the drop zone yet but we really do need to get maximum points on Saturday to stave off any thoughts of getting dragged in and making the players even more nervous.

The thing that concerns me more than anything else at the moment is the apathy amongst the fanbase towards the club and this really should be sending shivers down the spines of those in the boardroom at Deepdale.

When fans stop caring then you really are in trouble.