Patrick Bauer frustrated by Preston North End’s slide out of the top six
Patrick Bauer says it is with a big sense of frustration that Preston North End’s form has dropped off either side of the lockdown.
The Lilywhites have won only twice in the last 12 games dating back to the middle of February.
It leaves them with only a very outside chance of making the play-offs as they approach their final two games of the regular season.
North End have to beat Birmingham at Deepdale on Saturday to have any chance of making the top six.
But if Cardiff City win at Middlesbrough, that would dash PNE’s hopes.
PNE centre-back Bauer said: “At the start of the season we had some really good results.
“Some of the other teams, Fulham for example, had some difficulties at the start of the season.
“As the season has gone on, some of the other teams have got better.
“Unfortunately in November and December we didn’t pick up enough points.
“As we know, since coming back from lockdown we haven’t had good results.
“Now we are in a position where we are trying to keep the season alive.
“We need to win the last two games and we don’t have things in our own hands anymore.
“Cardiff need to drop points.
“We will focus on our game on Saturday, try to win it and see what happens after that.”
Since the season resumed last month, North End have won one, drawn three and lost three.
Last week’s victory at Sheffield Wednesday which was sandwiched between draw against Huddersfield and Nottingham Forest, sparked fresh optimism that a top-six push was back on.
However, the 1-0 defeat at Brentford which came 24 hours after Cardiff beat Derby, left Preston facing an uphill struggle.
Bauer said: “As Cardiff had won on Tuesday, we knew that we really needed a win against Brentford.
“They are a strong side and have now win eight games on the bounce.
“It was not easy, we did our best but conceding the early goal didn’t helps us.
“I thought we were quite solid otherwise, we made it difficult for a side who have scored a lot of goals to play.”
By his own admission, Bauer has had to come through a sticky patch of form since the restart.
He was dropped to the bench for the game against Derby but returned quickly to play in every fixture since.
The German centre-half said: “I found it difficult for the first few games, I wasn’t at my best.
“I made some mistakes to start with but I think I’ve settled back down since.
“I think the reason for that was the length of time without a proper game.
“During the lockdown we all worked very hard and had a great fitness programme from the fitness coach Tom Little to do.
“It was quite a quick start after coming back to training and I just struggled a bit to start with.
“If you think about how things normally are in pre-season, you have quite a few friendly games to get ready.
“Also a normal summer break is not three months like we’ve had this season.
“Usually you get four or five weeks off on holiday and then come back for six weeks of training.
“The games were off for three months and we had about three weeks back to train. It is not an excuse, it is the same for everyone.
“Personally I found it difficult, I think some of my performances in the early games should have been better.
“From a team point of view, it has been disappointing not to get the results we wanted.
“We were still in sixth place when we came back but have now dropped out.
“As a team we have conceded a lot of sloppy goals and in front of goal we have not been ruthless enough.
“We know we haven’t been consistent enough.”
North End’s defence has had a few different identities since the resumption.
The tried and tested Bauer/Ben Davies partnership was used for the first couple of games.
Bauer was then dropped for the Derby game to give Paul Huntington an opportunity.
A retrospective red card for Huntington after that game sidelined him, handing Bauer his chance again.
PNE went to three at the back at Sheffield Wednesday, a system they used again at Brentford.
In between against Nottingham Forest it was Bauer and Davies again until just before half-time, a hamstring strain forcing Davies off.
Said Bauer: “The game at Sheffield Wednesday was the first time we had used three at the back and we didn’t do a lot of work on it.
“Against Brentford we used that system but it was a different three. The more you play, the better your partnerships become.”