John Roper’s Preston North End’s Fans’ Panel verdict: Questions HAVE to be asked of the manager now

First of all congratulations to Blackburn Rovers – they fully deserved their win they were miles in front of North End on this showing.

Wednesday, 25th November 2020, 8:00 am

As for us, well to be quite honest I thought we were abysmal from the first kick of the game to the last. No fight, no passion, no leaders on or off the pitch and although people might say the sending off changed the game, I think it made little difference as Rovers could have been three up by then anyway.

We struggled through the first half hardly able to string three passes together and when we did absolutely nothing came of it.

Rovers, on the other hand, looked dangerous going forward even though, on paper, there is very little between the two squads. When Brereton scored the second I feared a real thumping but we somehow managed to keep the score down to three with ex-North End youth captain Tyrhys Dolan rubbing salt in the wound and making everyone in the PNE boardroom flush with embarrassment.

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Alex Neil during Tuesday night's defeat to Blackburn Rovers

Alex Neil made just the one change from the side that beat Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday with Alan Browne back from self-isolation to replace Brad Potts. It wasn’t very long before the pattern of the first half quickly emerged as the visitors dominated possession without making many inroads in the early stages.

North End were poor on the ball and never really looked like putting the Blackburn goal under any sort of pressure.

We were losing 50/50 balls and just before the 20-minute mark Rovers should have taken the lead but squandered two chances.

Still Preston offered little in attack and two more efforts from Armstrong flashed by the North End goal.

Johnson had our best chance but immediately Blackburn broke away and as Sam Gallagher ran into the box, Joe Rafferty was adjudged to have brought him down.

The referee had no hesitation in giving the spot-kick and giving Rafferty a red card.

Armstrong converted the penalty with ease leaving North End right up against it in the second half of the game.

Potts replaced Sinclair and straight after the interval we had our best spell of the game, actually getting deep into the Blackburn half a few times.

It only took another eight minutes for the visitors to seal the deal when Brereton was put through and a scuffed shot went past Rudd and into the net.

North End never looked like threatening the Blackburn goal and as the half wore on I was just hoping the full-time whistle would come and save us from complete and total embarrassment.

Our midfield were just letting the Rovers’ three do exactly as they liked and leadership on the pitch was, and is, a real issue for us.

Fifteen minutes from the end young Dolan got his goal and did a back-flip to celebrate just to make North End’s evening complete.

Rovers had the ball in the net at the end but mercifully the offside flag was up and the score was kept down to three.

So where do North End go from here?

The manager’s position is now, undoubtedly, in question with many fans and who can blame them after the woeful home form this season and a shocking 2020 at Deepdale?

Whether Neil is a victim of circumstance in terms of having a small budget and selling our best players is certainly a debate but three stats stick out for me after this shocking performance.

Clear cut chances – nil, Shots on target – nil, corners – nil.

This is in a local derby against a team in a similar position to ourselves in the league table.

Is the club going backwards on and off the pitch with players running contracts down and teams easily sussing out our strategy and game play.

One thing is for sure and that is that we cannot carry on like this, so it either gets sorted out quickly or I am afraid we need to go in another direction in terms of the football manager.