John Roper's Fans' Panel verdict: Preston North End simply beaten by a better team

Classy Fulham gained promotion to the Premier League with a fairly regulation 3-0 win against a sloppy North End side.

By John Roper
Wednesday, 20th April 2022, 7:49 am

Preston had their moments in the game but three goals in the first half saw the long-time league leaders finally ascend to the promised land after a season when they have only lost four games.

Goals number 39 and 40 for the season by Mitrovic, split by a goal from Carvalho, was more than enough to see the Cottagers home and leave Ryan Lowe disappointed at the way North End’s sloppiness contributed to their eventual downfall.

Far too often, particularly in the first half, PNE game the ball away and when you concede possession to a team like Fulham then there is generally only one outcome. North End rallied a little after the break with a change in formation but the mountain was already too big to climb and Fulham were effectively home and dry at the interval.

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Preston fans at Craven Cottage on Tuesday night

Preston made four changes to the side that drew at home to Millwall on Good Friday with Bauer, Browne, Cunningham and Maguire making way for Lindsay, McCann, Earl and Ched Evans.

It was North End who nearly drew first blood with Johnson and Archer combining to give Evans a great chance but his effort was well saved and PNE`s opportunity had gone.

Whiteman then had a deflected effort saved but moments later Mitrovic had put the home side in the lead after sloppy work on the North End right gave Fulham the ball.

Nine minutes later the hosts were two up when Carvalho lifted his shot over Iversen and into the net as it started to look like it was going to be a long night for North End.

Before the break the classy Wilson put Mitrovic through on goal and the big striker made no mistake in scoring his second and Fulham`s third.

North End had been found wanting down the flanks in the first half so it was no surprise when Ryan Lowe changed formation and brought on Diaby for Earl as Preston went to a flat back four to try and stem the Fulham tide.

Archer had a great chance to pull one back early in the second half but the Fulham keeper saved well tipping the ball onto the bar.

At the other end Iversen saved North End on a couple of occasions in quick succession when he first denied Mitrovic with an excellent one on one save and then saved again from the same player with an outstretched hand to palm away a shot from near the penalty spot.

North End had made a much better fist of it in the second half in my opinion and late on it was the turn of Ben Whiteman, from a free-kick, to see his effort go just over the bar.

PNE then had a few corners in succession but all to no avail and the Cottagers had completed their mission.

So disappointment for Preston in SW6 but you have to hand it the home side and although North End never gave up in this game sometimes you simply have to hold up your hand and say you were beaten by a better team on the evening.

There will be positives for Ryan Lowe, not least of which will be to clarify even further just where the squad needs strengthening in what will be a huge Summer off the field for North End as the squad will likely be transformed from its current state.

There are still three games to go this season and I wouldn’t expect a Ryan Lowe team to roll over and be on the beach anytime soon.

Two big games at home against Blackburn and Middlesbrough split by a trip to Barnsley for the annual Gentry Day soiree means this season is far from over on the field.

Sixty-five points would be a good target for North End to finish this topsy-turvy season with and to finish on a high going into the next campaign.