Dave Seddon’s Preston North End Press View: Lessons to be learned from heavy defeat

Tom Barkhuizen could have filled in at right-back but Alex Neil wanted his pace in attack at Hull
Tom Barkhuizen could have filled in at right-back but Alex Neil wanted his pace in attack at Hull

It is said you learn more from defeat than you do a win and a setback seems to spark more debate, none more so following Preston North End’s 4-0 defeat at Hull City.

We all enjoy a victory, we like to talk about it. However, the conversation quickly moves on.

Wednesday night’s loss at the KCOM Stadium is one best forgotten but will still linger in many people’s minds going into West Bromwich Albion’s visit to Deepdale on Monday.

It was the heaviest defeat of Alex Neil’s time at PNE, only the second time they had shipped four goals .

What I will say about it was that over the whole piece, it wasn’t as one-sided as a scoreline might suggest.

It was for an hour, Hull all over North End from when they opened the scoring in the 30th minute – with a touch of good fortune it must be said.

But in that opening half-hour there was scope for Neil’s men to have made an impact on the game.

Sean Maguire’s shot against the post early on, a Tom Barkuizen effort which was saved, the Hull left-back having to make a quick adjustment to prevent himself scoring an own goal.

Even at 1-0 in the early moments of the second half, Billy Bodin had an air shot when presented with a fine pass from Ben Pearson.

It was ‘game over’ moments later as the hosts broke from that let-off and won the penalty for the second goal.

After that, any North End chances were just for window dressing, the game beyond them.

The biggest talking point from a Preston perspective was the use of Ryan Ledson as a right-back, then over on the other side of the back four for the opening spell of the second half.

What a baptism of fire for Ledson, a midfielder by trade, as a full-back.

It might have been okay had North End been playing a side who liked to work the ball centrally through midfield.

Hull, however, have Kamil Grosicki operating down the left wing, Ledson’s task to track the Pole.

Josh Bowler played on the other wing, Jarrod Bowen given a No,10 role especially for the night.

The home side’s strength was that forward line, led by Josh Magennis, and Ledson formed part of a back four who couldn’t cope with it once the intensity hotted up.

Neil choosing to use Ledson at full-back was a big gamble – he bet on red and landed on black.

In the PNE manager’s words, someone had to play there and Ledson was it.

Let’s not hang Ledson out to dry on this one. He was asked to do a job in a role he probably hadn’t played before and came up short.

The Liverpudlian is a midfielder, simple as. He doesn’t have the pace and the positional sense of a full-back and why should he?

Neil’s options were very limited due to an injury list which suddenly had lots of defenders’ names written on it.

We’ve not seen Tom Clarke since August, while Andrew Hughes is on his third injury of the season – hamstring, hip flexor and currently a fractured foot.

Darnell Fisher and Ben Davies were casualties from last weekend, so too Alan Browne who is now an option for the right-back slot should the need arise.

How could Neil have done it differently? Obviously this bit is done with a large dose of hindsight.

Tom Barkhuizen had games earlier in his career at right-back and was definitely in Neil’s thoughts. Neil referenced him as an option post-match, but was to explain he wanted his pace up front.

Some fans suggested moving Jordan Storey out to right-back from the middle and drafting Paul Huntington in.

Whether Storey would have had the pace to track Grosicki, I’m not sure. But he would have had a defensive mind-set there.

Huntington was on the bench, a rare inclusion in the matchday squad this season.

In fact his only game was against Hull in the League Cup in August.

Could North End have gone three at the back? Patrick Bauer, Storey and Huntington, flanked by wing-backs.

It was an option. However, 3-5-2 or a variety of it is not a system Neil has played too often at Preston.

Of those various ideas, I think Barkhuizen might have been the closest before the Ledson option got the nod.

Hopefully some of the injuries will clear up in time for the Baggies’ visit.

Just to be able to put round pegs in round holes would be bliss for Neil.

Higher up the pitch, his selection will be interesting.

Although defenders were in short supply at Hull, the attacking element of the bench was strong to say the least.

Josh Harrop and David Nugent got decent-length runs in the second half, with Brad Potts coming on later to give Maguire’s legs a rest.

The unused outfield players were Huntington, Jayden Stockley and Tom Bayliss. Not a bad bench at all but the problem was the defender shortage.

Thousands of pairs of eyes will be all over Monday’s teamsheet, hopefully seeing more options at the back being available to Neil.