Dave Seddon’s big match verdict

Aiden McGeady drives home his debut goal for Preston in the defeat to Barnsley
Aiden McGeady drives home his debut goal for Preston in the defeat to Barnsley
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Preston are facing the harsh reality of a side slightly down on their luck and struggling to put together a semblance of early-season form.

Aiden McGeady’s fine debut goal in a Lilywhite shirt would have been the catalyst on another occasion for PNE to have kicked on and beaten Barnsley.

The 25-yarder hauled them back level after they had trailed their Yorkshire visitors for more than half-an-hour to Sam Winnall’s opener.

Such a superb finish from an undoubted talent with just two Preston training sessions under his belt – what could possibly go wrong after that?

What went wrong was a different type of goal but just as worthy of the plaudits, from Tykes sub Adam Armstrong with 10 minutes remaining.

An impressive burst of pace to beat an otherwise faultless Alex Baptiste was bettered by a flick of his heel to bring the ball inside and a curling finish round Anders Lindegaard.

Two superb finishes from either side but contrasting moods in the dressing room and in the stands.

Ten words from Simon Grayson in among the few thousand he said post-match, were picked up by fans who are worried by the current plight of five defeats in the first six league games.

“If they are fed up, don’t come to the game,” was the Preston manager’s response to a question about the mood among some of the faithful.

That line, in isolation, was not the greatest piece of PR from Grayson, who was still clearly frustrated by events on the pitch.

Those words developed into a more reasoned and longer answer, a defence of his side’s efforts both against Barnsley and in other games.

Grayson said: “We are working our socks off to make sure this club does everything in its capabilities to keep progressing.

“We work with the lads daily, we are not getting the breaks.

“If anybody has been to every game this season, they will realise that we have been involved in them all.

“We have never been out of any game, the games we have lost we have done so by the odd goal.

“That is not a team struggling for confidence, not a team which is hanging in games and getting battered fours and fives.

“If it had been fours and fives, then we have a problem.

“We are nearly there in terms of games, the odd breaks which are not going for us at this moment in time will turn, without a shadow of doubt.

“I have every faith in the players.

“Social media can be a cruel place to be, I don’t bother with it.

“We will do whatever it takes to make sure this football club progresses.”

North End deserved something out of this game, no doubt about that.

They did against Fulham and Derby too but the form is there in black and white.

Three points from the 18 on offer so far and a statistic of no Championship win at Deepdale for nearly seven months.

This was a ninth winless home match going back to February, with Cardiff here on Tuesday night.

Those are the negatives but on Saturday, there were positives to examine too.

I enjoyed McGeady’s bow, while also acknowledging that there is more to come.

In a first half where North End could not quite find their feet, is was through the play of the Everton loan man that they looked most likely to do something.

The cross he dropped over the top of the Barnsley back line for Eoin Doyle to volley behind, and a lay-off to play in Marnick Vermijl, were two examples.

He and Callum Robinson were the two bright sparks going forward, albeit with a few rough edges.

Baptiste was perhaps on target for the starman award until Armstrong did him for the winner.

He will not have been happy that Armstrong beat him in the run-up to the goal, then again, most defenders would have been done by the piece of skill which the Barnsley sub then showed.

Grayson had gone with a system which could be viewed as 3-4-2-1 or a 3-4-3.

Baptiste sat between Tom Clarke and Greg Cunningham at the back, with Vermijl and Tommy Spurr playing down the sides as wing-backs.

Paul Gallagher and John Welsh were paired together in midfield, with McGeady and Robinson playing off and either side of Eoin Doyle.

When the ball was played to feet, that had promise, but Doyle struggled as the target when it went longer.

A change to 4-4-2 after an hour, Jordan Hugill replacing Spurr, was to coincide with North End’s best spell.

That is not to say 3-4-3 did not work, however perhaps it needs Hugill as its focal point if the high ball is to be used.

Preston hit the woodwork early on, Gallagher’s free-kick delivered right-footed from the left channel, bouncing through and forcing keeper Adam Davies to dive and push it against the post.

Barnsley took a 27th-minute lead, the PNE defence appearing to misjudge the spin of a ball played through from midfield.

Marley Watkins’ scuffed centre across the box was not cut out and WINNALL slid in to score at the far post.

Parity was restored in the 64th minute, Gallagher and Vermijl working a corner to McGEADY who cut on to his left foot before unleashing a shot into the far corner.

North End pushed for a second, however it was at the other end where the winner was scored, ARMSTRONG’S pace and skill rewarded with a fine finish.