John Roper’s Preston North End fans’ panel verdict: We paid the price for pre-lockdown slump

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Preston ended the season at Deepdale with a comfortable 2-0 victory against Birmingham City but results elsewhere meant that the play-off hopes were extinguished for another season.

A goal towards the end of each half saw the boys take all three points with Patrick Bauer scoring two minutes from the break, and Brad Potts sealing the victory three minutes from the end.

Birmingham had their moments particularly at the start of the second half but I thought PNE defended well in this game and deserved their victory.

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We started a little bit scrappy but grew into the game. We did what we had to do and at least finished off the home campaign with a decent win.

Preston North End’s Jayden Stockley rues a missed opportunityPreston North End’s Jayden Stockley rues a missed opportunity
Preston North End’s Jayden Stockley rues a missed opportunity

Alex Neil made four changes to the side narrowly beaten at Brentford on Wednesday evening with Stockley, Gallagher, Potts and Harrop replacing Maguire, Fisher, Browne and Barkhuizen.

The opening exchanges were scrappy but PNE were denied a cast-iron penalty when Harrop was fouled in the box only for referee Steve Martin to waive play on.

The Blues had a series of corners but apart from one effort that hit the side netting, the North End defence held firm with Bauer and Storey looking solid at the back. We took the lead two minutes from the break when a Gallagher corner from the right fell to Bauer eight yards out and the big German calmly slotted home.

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No changes at the break for either side as Birmingham had their best spell of the game in the first 10 minutes of the second half.

Several corners from the right saw Rudd make and excellent save and then he saved a header at nearly point-blank range to keep the Blues out and ensure North End’s first clean sheet in the league at home since we beat Brentford 2-0 way back in September.

We almost seemed complacent at times in the second half but perhaps we were playing with a little more freedom and were dominating the midfield play as the game wore on.

With three minutes to go Maguire fought for a ball that fell into the path of Potts in the inside-left position and he took it in his stride and shot past Camp in the visitors’ goal to ensure the game was put beyond the reach of Birmingham.

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So with just a trip to Ashton Gate on Wednesday evening left, we will look back and reflect on a chance missed since the return to football post-lockdown.

Nine points from eight games was never going to be enough but sometimes football can be fine margins. The late equaliser at Luton, the two guilt edged chances late on against Cardiff at home, penalties that should have been or could have been.

The facts of the matter are that we had a very poor run prior to lockdown and that has ultimately 
cost us a place in the top six.

The Championship table will tell you that this is a very tight division and we said at the restart that PNE would need 15 or sixteen points from the remaining nine games to make the play-offs.

Two points from the first four meant we were always up against it and so it proved in the end. Let’s hope for a final flourish in BS3 on Wednesday evening.