Five talking points from Preston North End's defeat to Derby County at Pride Park
After three wins on the spin and four games unbeaten, Preston found the going tough at Derby and lost 1-0 at Pride Park.
Poor in the first half and a bit better in the second would be fair assessment of the pattern of North End’s play in the East Midlands.
Here are some of the talking points from the game.
1. The Lilywhites are still looking to find their feet away from home. This was a fourth defeat on their travels and in three of them they have failed to score.
In the first half, they failed to impose themselves on the game with Derby very much in the ascendancy.
North End were better in the second half, the Rams allowing them to have more of the ball and attempting to counter.
But a lot of the play was in front of the Derby defence rather than getting in behind and clear-cut chances were few and far between.
2. Darnell Fisher had put in some strong displays of late but Saturday’s was not one of them.
That is not singling him out for criticism, with some of his colleagues off-key too.
However, with North End playing a high defensive line, Derby found plenty of space behind right-back Fisher.
The yellow card he got for a foul on Mason Bennett was his ninth of the season in just 15 appearances.
Having already served a one-game ban for five bookings, a two-match suspension is just a caution away.
That is a worry with Joe Rafferty operating at left-back to good effect – Andrew Hughes remains sidelined, as does Tom Clarke.
Alan Browne is an option to play right-back, as he did in the second half after Fisher was subbed at the interval.
3. North End goalkeeper Declan Rudd has sometimes has the finger pointed at him this season but he deserved the plaudits on Saturday for a decent performance.
Twice he came out on top in one-on-one situations in the first half to deny Tom Lawrence and Martyn Waghorn.
Rudd did so again after the break to deny Waghorn, although that one was a more comfortable save.
4. Alex Neil hasn’t been afraid to change things early, for example bringing Jayden Stockley off the bench in the first half against Blackburn last month.
At Derby, he made a double change at half-time, introducing Paul Gallagher and Billy Bodin.
Gallagher was Preston’s best player in the second half, displaying a calmness on the ball and a good range of passing.
He could probably count himself unfortunate not to start after a good display in the win against Huddersfield before the break.
It was nice to see Bodin on the pitch, this the winger’s first appearance since September 14.
The third substitute used was Jordan Storey, that a change forced on Neil by an injury to Ben Davies.
Storey looked very measured in his time on the pitch, playing next to Patrick Bauer for the first time in a competitive game.
After being a regular pick in the second half of last season, this was only Storey's appearance in a Championship game this campaign - the other was as a substitute too.
Bringing Storey on unfortunately denied David Nugent a run-out against the club he left in the summer after a two-and-a-half year stay.
Nugent was ready to come on when Davies was injured, hence Storey getting the nod instead.
5. Although the team didn't fire on the day, the North End supporters certainly did.
There were 2,435 of them at Derby, packed into one corner of the ground. They made plenty of noise, were in good voice but unfortunately didn't get a goal to celebrate.
Pride Park is a decent ground with good acoustics but I'm no fan of its location. If you can imagine plonking Deepdale in the middle of a bigger version of Deepdale Retail Park, then that should give you an idea of what the Rams' home is like.