John Roper’s Preston North End Fans’ Panel verdict: Critical that we take THREE points against Birmingham

I’m at a bit of loss what to say about that performance to be honest, apart from the fact that I think it would have worse if there had been 11,000 home fans inside Deepdale watching it.

Thursday, 29th October 2020, 8:00 am

A first half that hardly hit mediocre never mind any heights and a second-half performance by PNE bordering on abysmal.

No strength on the ball, no direction of play , the centre backs going sideways and an absolutely punchless attack, although the service up to poor Emil Riis was virtually non existent.

The visitors on the other hand looked solid in their play and their shape and I thought we were fortunate to go in level at the break.

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Preston North End’s Alan Browne competing with Millwall’s Mason Bennett (left)

In the second half the inevitable happened with a good breakaway goal from the Lions but poor cover from North End made it easy for Zohore to score.

A poor penalty to concede late on by Barkhuizen saw Wallace add insult to injury for North End in what was a shocker of an evening at Deepdale

Alex Neil, not surprisingly, named the same XI that had maximum effect on the road in the last seven days looking to make it three wins out of three.

The game started quite scrappily to be honest with neither side able to make any decent impact on the opposition and both defences clearly on top.

Millwall did settle down quicker than North End and looked like they may get some joy down the Preston left but Andrew Hughes did a decent job keeping Romeo at bay as PNE looked to gain some foothold in the game.

I thought that Browne and Ledson were playing a little bit too close together in the middle and we looked better when Ledson took up a slightly more forward position later in the half.

Only one real chance in the half and that went to the visitors seven minutes from the break forcing Declan Rudd into action with a good save directing the ball over the bar.

We had been a bit too ‘route one’ for my liking in the first period and it was a rather sluggish display and one which gave Alex Neil plenty to think about in the half-time break.

North End were forced into a change at half time with Paul Huntington replacing birthday boy Patrick Bauer in the heart of the Preston backline.

Within 10 minutes of the restart the visitors took a deserved lead when Wallace got clear in the inside right position and just slid the ball across the North End goal for Zohore to slot home as easy as you like.

Harrop came on for the ineffective Potts and tried to inject some energy but his team-mates seemed to be on a different wavelength as North End struggled to get a shot on target.

Barkhuizen had our one and only chance but his shot was well saved by the Millwall keeper.

In the final minutes Barkhuizen conceded a silly penalty and man of the match Wallace made no mistake with his spot-kick, giving Rudd no chance.

The body language of the players at the end told its own story on a dismal night for North End.

I’m sure I don’t need to quote the facts on North End’s home form in 2020 and in spite of four excellent results on the road the performances and the results of the team in PR1 must now be a very big concern for those in charge at Deepdale.

How can a team who play so consistently away from home be so poor at home?

One area of contention is the fact that we only usually play one striker and I know this is a area of frustration for many fans.

Four straight defeats and no goals is poor in any league, anywhere, anytime but in a high-pressure Championship it is worse than poor – it is abysmal.

The home game against Birmingham on Saturday is a really big game in North End’s season and while many, including myself, could defend Alex Neil’s record at Deepdale, this sort of home form cannot be allowed to continue for much longer.

I expect several changes for the visit of the Blues and three points is a must to take away the growing pressure on the team and the manager.