Preston North End are still looking for their first win since the opening day of the season after defeat to Reading on Saturday.
Daniel Johnson and Callum Robinson were on target for the Lilywhites but the visitors picked up their first league win since beating PNE back in April.
Below we take a look at the main talking points.
This team needs a result - and fast
PNE ended the day second from bottom of the early Championship table as their poor start to the campaign was brought into sharp focus. This was another game were North End did more than enough to get something out of it, perhaps even pick up all three points. But this is increasingly a team on the edge, fragile at best. They started both halves well but were behind twice only to level things up before then conceded a decisive third. For all the talk of the need for another striker during the transfer window, it is defensively that North End are looking vulnerable. While chances were missed they shouldn’t need four goals at home to beat a Reading side who arrived in such poor form themselves. An eye opener.
System change needed to cover Pearson
Neil’s main conundrum over the break was how to pick a side that didn’t include Ben Pearson or Ryan Ledson sitting in midfield. With both suspended the PNE boss went with three at the back to cover for the lack of bite. It was an unfamiliar look but was deemed necessary with Neil not wanting to be light in the middle of the park. The three central defenders are no strangers to one another while the presence of Josh Earl and Darnell Fisher either side gave some help to Daniel Johnson and Paul Gallagher in the middle of the park. It was then a front three with Callum Robinson and Tom Barkhuizen working around Louis Moult. The system itself wasn’t a failure by any stretch with positives to take. There was time to work on it over the break meaning it can’t be blamed. But it didn’t cover the defensive cracks or bring about a positive result, and three points are very much the name of the game for PNE at the moment as their search for victory in the Championship goes on.
Earl makes most of his chance
The change of system saw Earl recalled ahead of Andrew Hughes down the left. With three central defenders employed it looks as though Neil opted for the academy product because of his greater prowess going forwards. On his first Championship appearance of the season the 19-year-old certainly looked the part. He enjoyed plenty of space in the final third and was able to overlap and cross almost at will at times. As early as the opening couple of minutes his cross was only just behind Barkhuizen. The teenager then played a part in Johnson’s goal, his ball for Robinson seeing a shot blocked before the ball broke to DJ on the edge of the area. He also added a full assist for the second goal, Robinson bundling home from close range when Earl’s effort might have been going close in its own right. Has done more than enough to keep the shirt.
Barkhuizen needs a change of luck
The winger, like others around him, is going through a very frustrating spell. He had four openings in the first 20 minutes and on another day could have been hogging the headlines come the final whistle. But it wasn’t to be. The closest he came was a header which crashed off the post from Robinson’s cross. There was also a rising shot on the half-turn and another effort that was blocked. If one of those goes in then it's a very different story for both the player and team as a while. As it was, the second half was a frustrating one for him, the winger the guilty party when it came to losing possession for Reading’s winner. Perhaps he needs a break in more ways than one.
Rudd is the man in possession
It’s getting to the stage where we can safely say that Declan Rudd is Neil’s No.1. After a tough couple of weeks before the international break, the shot-stopper called into question for at least a couple of goals, many felt Chris Maxwell might get the nod against Reading. That wasn’t the case though, Rudd perhaps benefiting from the fact there has been a hiatus from Championship action. He had a good afternoon as well. In what was a jittery display from PNE as a whole he produced sharp stops from Liam Kelly and Yakou Meite. North End fans will be hoping his shaky spell is well and truly behind him. Whoever is in goal just needs more help in front of them.