John Roper’s Fans’ Panel verdict: Brave show but Preston North End lacked ability to open up Brentford

A early Bee sting almost certainly put paid to North End’s play-off hopes for another season as the boys went down to a narrow 1-0 defeat at the divisions in-form side, Brentford.

Thursday, 16th July 2020, 8:00 am

It looked very ominous early on for PNE when the home side took the lead through Watkins.

However, slowly but surely North End fought their way back into the game and gave the Bees a few scares along the way.

But, alas, once again we could not put the ball in the net or find that telling pass that would open up an excellent Brentford defence.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

David Raya saves Darnell Fisher's first-half free-kick

The television audience would have seen Preston at their battling best and I am sure there were many in the Smethwick area who were urging Alex Neil’s men on to try and score and take something from the game.

Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and although we were far from disgraced it is another defeat on this shocking run in the second half of the season.

Neil once again made five changes to the North End starting line up with Storey, Browne, Ledson, Barkhuizen and Fisher coming back into the side at the expense of Davies, Pearson, Potts, Stockley and Sinclair.

It almost makes you wonder whether the manager has one team he plays at home and one team he plays away, although to be fair two of the changes were forced through injury.

North End made the worst possible start when the home side went one up in the fourth minute.

Barkhuizen lost the ball 20 yards from the Brentford line and somehow the Bees worked the ball upfield for Watkins to smash home from close range.

I thought young Storey wasn’t quite tight enough on his man but he will learn and improve from his experience.

North End fought their way back and a Fisher saw Raya diving to his right to keep our best chance of the first half out.

After the break PNE clearly started the half the better as we looked bright on the ball and at the risk of repeating myself all that was missing was the final ball and the goal.

North End’s approach work was good and I think Brentford realised we were not going to roll over and let them take the points without a fight.

Some will say we lacked urgency in the game and only went for it when the subs came on but we had to try and stop the home side scoring again and at least take it to the last quarter of an hour only a goal down.

I suppose in Alex Neil’s position as a manager you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t, but having said that I thought we were just about value for a point on the evening particularly as the game opened up somewhat in the last 20 minutes.

On this occasion the subs didn’t have all that much impact and we were left ruing what might have been on a dull evening in West London

No doubt the inquest will start on the season sometime soon and the facts are that our general form has been very poor for the last 25 games.

I always prefer to wait until the final ball has been kicked before making an assessment as when you look at the league table, finishing eighth looks a much better season than finishing 12th, even though there may only be three or four points between the positions come next Wednesday evening.

For now the manager must keep the boys going until after the game at Bristol and show some real want and endeavour in these last two games to at least finish the season on a winning note.

Whenever the new season starts the club will have a job on its hands matching this year’s season ticket sales and a couple of good wins at the end might just persuade some more fans to keep the faith.