John Roper’s Preston North End Fans’ Panel verdict: A hard-working performance but not quite enough

North End will feel a little unlucky to have lost this game to a penalty but in all honesty we never particularly looked like scoring, save for Ched Evans effort in the first 10 minutes of the game.

Wednesday, 17th February 2021, 8:00 am

A silly penalty conceded by Tom Barkhuizen just five minutes into the second half was the difference between the teams as PNE looked solid at the back but lacking penetration in the final third.

The first half was an fairly nondescript affair with chances at a premium.

North End had reverted to their 4-2-3-1 for most of the game but went with two up front in the last 20 minutes to try and get back in the game.

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Ched Evans tries a shot against Watford

We huffed and puffed but just couldn’t create that clear chance that might have given us a well earned point.

Manager Alex Neil made two changes to the side that won at Blackburn on Friday with Jayson Molumby and Scott Sinclair coming in for Greg Cunningham and Ryan Ledson.

Preston started the game solidly enough and in fact had a great chance to go into the lead after just 11 minutes when Evans chested down unmarked but put his shot over the bar.

Evans then shot wide five minutes later but it was the visitors who had the majority of possession and in fact Watford had six corners in the first 30 minutes.

They all came to nothing as North End defended very resolutely, keeping a good shape and restricting the Hornets to long range efforts.

The vistors had a couple of half-chances that went over the bar and wide of the post as Preston ended the first half with a Hughes header at the back post that came to nothing.

A decent first forty five with North End looking very solid if unspectacular.

No changes at the break for North End but just five minutes into the second half Tom Barkhuizen’s trailing leg brought down Joao Pedro and the Brazilian dusted himself down and tucked the penalty away, giving Iversen no chance.

Lindsay headed over and a Barkhuizen shot finished in the hot dog stall as North End tried in vain to find a way through the visitors’ defence.

Just after the hour mark Gordon was brought on to replace Barkhuizen and 10 minutes later Riis replaced Sinclair as we went searching for an equaliser.

Watford always looked dangerous on the break but I thought the new-look North End defence were very decent on the night .

Potts came on for Johnson in the last 10 minutes as a Riis shot went just wide and at the other end ,Andrew Hughes cleared off the line in the final minute.

The kitchen sink was thrown in the four minutes of added time but Watford held out and looked strong on the ball as they had done all evening.

So a ninth home defeat for Preston with a hard-working if ultimately fruitless performance.

Watford are a good side and they will be there or thereabouts at the end of the season, whilst I keep being told North End are a team in transition.

This was a decent display by Alex Neil’s side but highlighted the fact that you must take your chances against the teams at the top of the league.

For PNE I thought Lindsay had another good game along with his centre-back partner, Jordan Storey.

The midfield holding players worked hard but they were up against it playing against a Hornets midfield full of talent.

Up front we tried and tried and tried but that one telling ball just never came.

Difficult to be upbeat when you have lost at home for the ninth time but this performance wasn’t poor we just weren’t quite at our best against one of the top teams in the division.

The games are coming thick and fast and so we quickly move on to the Principality on Saturday and another tough-looking assignment against Cardiff City.