Well where should we begin with our resume of Saturday’s proceeding at Deepdale?
First of all credit to Barnsley for playing a no-fear brand of football that has given them a flying start. The Tykes deserved their win simply because they put their chances away and we didn’t. All the stats about possession that the manager referred to in his disastrous post match local radio interview mean absolutely nothing as North End slumped to a fifth defeat in six games. We looked decent for 20 minutes in the second half and could have possibly have sewn the game up but to be quite frank, and with respect, we were playing newly-promoted Barnsley and not Barcelona. The game started with North End, apparently, playing 3-4-3 but once again, and without labouring the point , I think he had Cunningham and Spurr the wrong way round, with Cunningham playing wide on the left. Barnsley played with a very high intensity but surely the manager would have known what to expect as they have played that way in every game this season. To be fair the goal came from a mis-hit shot from the left and Winnall was unmarked at the back post to tap in unmarked. The back three generally did okay but were caught out twice, both resulting in goals. I thought that Vermijl and McGeady had a decent first period but North End did struggle to keep their shape at times which is probably to be expected with three new players and a different formation, again. We started the second half slightly better and improved again when Hugill came on as we went 4-4-2. We started to cause problems and when McGeady hit a thunderbolt from 25 yards past Davies, hope sprang eternal. North End had several good chances via Doyle, Hugill, Robinson and McGeady again, but it was the visitors who claimed the points with ten minutes to go after a long ball was won by Armstrong against Baptiste and the on-loan striker curled a beautiful shot past Lindegaard. So another disappointing weekend for the North End faithful. The manager needs to find a way of placating the fans after his “If you are fed up then don’t bother coming” comment after the game. It was obviously said in frustration but will alienate many fans at a time when Simon Grayson needs all the support he can get from an increasingly frustrated fan base.
Barnsley arrived at Deepdale and as the league’s top scorers, having scored 12 goals to our paltry three. We approached the first half at our usual tentative pace and gave our opponents far too much respect, with our main attacking game plan of lumping the ball up front to Doyle being ineffective, as he was easily out-jumped by the two towering centre-backs at the heart of Barnsley’s well organised defence. Last season we picked up points through being tight at the back but once again some shoddy marking allowed Barnsley to score from close range, which set us on the way to a third successive home defeat. Though our losses have mainly been by the odd goal, our home form is one for great concern and is making us look like relegation fodder at the moment, although there is still plenty of time to go and nobody gets promoted or relegated in September. In the second half, we were a different side and completely dominated the half. Barnsley were formed in the late 1880s by the Reverend Tiverton Preedy but we found our divine inspiration in the form of debutant Aiden McGeady, who scored with a superb 25-yard effort shortly before the hour mark to draw us level.McGeady was undoubtedly the man of the match and showed his Premiership quality which, coupled with increased match fitness, should make him an excellent addition to the side. After the goal we looked like we would go on and win but Barnsley scored their winner on the counter attack after another loanee, debutant Alex Baptiste was beaten for pace and turned in the area. It was tough luck on Baptiste who showed signs that he could also enhance the side. Barnsley fans were of the opinion that it had been “like watching Brazil” but I thought it had been more like playing against Venezeula and we had suffered a home loss against a side we should be taking at least a point off.
Despite some good second-half play and the creation of a clutch of good chances, Preston slipped to their fifth defeat in the opening six matches of a campaign that has not yet seen them gain a single point on the home turf of Deepdale. Whilst this is not yet a crisis, it has no doubt set the alarm bells ringing in some quarters and puts real pressure on against Cardiff on Tuesday. Just why it is not ‘quite’ working is probably down to poor finishing combined with the odd, but bad, defensive error over 90 minutes that now needs to be addressed. As seems to be the norm at present, North End made life hard work for themselves in the first half by a momentary lapse of concentration at the back that allowed Barnsley to take the lead shortly before the half-hour mark. Up at the other end, some promising moves in the last third of the pitch broke down due to either a poor final ball, poor finishing or the width of the visiting keeper’s left-hand post, to leave the hosts still one-nil down at the break. The second half saw a much more determined and positive team effort leading to yet more chances, with one finally taken in the form of a lovely strike from outside the box by the impressive debutant Aiden McGeady. Really, Preston should have gone and won the match from that point on, aided and abetted by substitute Jordan Hugill adding much-needed momentum to the front line. Barnsley were pretty much out of it for most of this period until a long and hopeful late punt forward led to a relatively minor slip by the otherwise impressive new signing Alex Baptiste. To be fair to Baptiste, I doubt there have been many occasions in his career when he has been outwitted by such a superb bit of instinctive skill by the visiting goalscorer. So, a win by any means is now badly needed come Tuesday before, even at this early stage of the season, losing becomes too much of habit.
North End slumped to their fifth defeat in six games as newly-promoted Barnsley punished the home side for missed opportunities. A 20-minute spell of energy and pressure is all that we could offer, and to be fair we equalised and had more than enough chances to go ahead in that spell. The chances came and went and so did North End’s hope of any sort of result out of the game, as a striker who we targeted in the summer, Adam Armstrong, scored the winner for Barnsley with 10 minutes left. Grayson started all three of the deadline-day signings, and to be fair to them, all did fairly well. But on the whole, the side just didn’t show the standard that’s needed to compete in this league, again. Sam Winnall put the visitors ahead after a mis-hit shot fell to his unmarked self at the back post and he was able to tap it in. Gallagher produced Preston’s closest effort when his free-kick evaded everybody and struck the post before bouncing away. The second half was much better than the first, as has been the story quite often this season, we were starting to get on top of the game and McGeady brought us level with wonderful strike from 25 yards out on his debut. But we couldn’t build on it and instead were punished as Barnsley took all three points. Some seriously worrying signs for North End now, five defeats in six, no home league win since February and a couple of unneeded comments from the manager post-match. Changes needed – fast.