Five things we learned from Preston North End’s Boxing Day defeat to Hull City

Graham Burke was back in the PNE starting line-up against Hull on Boxing Day
Graham Burke was back in the PNE starting line-up against Hull on Boxing Day

Preston were frustrated at Deepdale on Boxing Day with Jackson Irvine’s double meaning it is now back-to-back defeats in the Championship.

Alan Browne scored a fine strike for PNE but Alex Neil's men went down 2-1.

Below, we take a look at the main talking points from the game at Deepdale.

PNE will have to tighten up aerially

Back-to-back defeats after such a good run have come from three headed goals. Down to 10 men, the Lilywhites switched off from a corner for Michael Hector’s winner at Sheffield Wednesday and here it was Jackson Irvine who twice headed beyond Declan Rudd. In the first half a move was worked down the left, with Stephen Kingsley’s cross finding the unmarked Australian who advanced from deep. A good header, but he had plenty of space. After Alan Browne had levelled things up with a fine strike it was a scrappy corner that brought the winner. The ball was fired to the back post, almost under Rudd’s crossbar with the first effort blocked before Irvine bundled home a second as the Tigers picked up a third straight win.

Browne officially a goalscoring midfielder

He may have by his own admission not hit the heights of last season in the early weeks of this campaign but Alan Browne is already closing in his goal total from 2017-18. This pearler from approaching 25 yards was number eight for the Irishman having scored nine in his big breakthrough under Alex Neil last season. He’s scoring all kinds of goals as well, this one out of the top drawer and too good for David Marshall. The 23-year-old’s performances are a long way from the days when some fans questioned why his manager saw him as an advanced midfielder. Such a key figure.

Defenders in reserve but Davies is the pick of the bunch

Most of the injuries so far this season have been in attack and PNE do have some room for manoeuvre at the back. But the sight of Ben Davies limping off in the first half sent a sinking feeling around Deepdale. There is cover, three out and out defenders on the bench with Jordan Storey coming on, but the Barrow boy is a key figure in the spine of the side. The young player of the year last term made a slow start this time around but he’s been a shining light in the recent upturn in fortunes. Keep everything crossed that he’s back sooner rather than later.

Burke misses big opportunity

With resources depleted in the final third Graham Burke was handed a first start since the draw with Bolton back in September having appeared off the bench in recent weeks. The left-footer started from the right with Tom Barkhuizen also cutting in on the other wing. Burke found it difficult to get in the game and in all truth, looked like someone who was lacking in competitive match action. There were a few nice touches but he was also robbed of position in dangerous areas on more than one occasion. Hooked after 45 minutes in what will go down as a real missed opportunity for him.

Ledson can become PNE’s action man

The former Everton youngster was the man to come on for Burke at the interval. He was deployed in his familiar sitting midfield role and was all-action in the opening minutes of the second period as North End found a way back into the game. Winning tackles, playing decisive forward passes and going for goal, Ledson was right in the thick of it. There is a real rawness to some of his play but the tools that caught the eye of the PNE hierarchy are there for all to see. He just needs more experience at this level and things should come together for another player learning on the job at Deepdale.