QPR 0, PNE 2: Dave Seddon’s match verdict

Preston celebrate their opening goal
Preston celebrate their opening goal
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You might say that Preston North End’s performance at Loftus Road was ‘so last season’ – and the season before, and the season before that too.

In the fashion industry, such a phrase is used to describe something as being out of date.

But going back to what they did well in 2015/16 was just what North End needed to kick-start their campaign.

Being solid and tough to play against brought them eight Championship away wins last term, following on from 12 the year before in League One and 11 in 2013/14.

At times, the Lilywhites look better set up to play on their travels than at home.

Following the first three league games of the season, Simon Grayson had got it in the neck from some of the faithful for his team selection.

In West London, the 835 travelling fans sang Grayson’s name at the final whistle for a spot-on selection.

He went 3-5-2, the side having a fresher look thanks to four changes.

The key one was John Welsh’s restoration to the midfield for a first game of the season.

Stationed deep, shielding the back three, he epitomised everything which was good about PNE’s afternoon.

Welsh hassled, harried, knocked QPR’s attacking threat off kilter and made you wonder where he had been until now.

He got a yellow card, his response a smile and a one-liner when asked about it.

“That’s standard isn’t it?,” said Welsh as he reflected on his day’s work in the capital.

Let me make it clear though, this was not just the John Welsh show.

It was hard to find fault with any performances of the 14 players used over the course of the game.

Tommy Spurr had a very good Preston debut down the left wide, having a big hand in the opening goal.

Skipper Tom Clarke led the back line well, limiting the hosts – scorers of seven goals in their previous three league games – to few sights on goal.

Callum Robinson got a central role up front instead of his accustomed use on the left hand side.

He linked well with Jermaine Beckford and it would have been nice to see the pair both credited with goals on the scoresheet.

While there was no doubt Beckford netted the first, intentionally or not, it is stretching things to say Robinson got the second.

It was him challenging with Nedum Onuoha for a low ball in from Beckford but the last touch definitely came off the QPR defender and has to go down as an own goal.

My first view of it from the press box, peering round a pillar, gave the impression Robinson had scored.

However, the camera angle from the other side of the ground showed Onuoha sweeping it up into the roof of the net as he tried to prevent the cross reaching Robinson.

But they all count don’t they?

What was important was that North End were finally off the mark at the fourth time of asking.

There had been signs of an improvement against Derby County last Tuesday night, however, this display in Shepherds Bush was several notches up on what we had seen so far.

Grayson said: “I made a conscious effort to bring in a bit more experience, with Welsh joining Paul Gallagher in the middle and Beckford up there, while still having the energy and pace of the others.

“The players had been very disappointed with the results so far, the performances a little bit and the criticism.

“They had a lot to prove and they did that.”

Welsh’s recall was popular among the supporters and represented something of a change of approach.

From half-time onwards at Reading on the opening day, Grayson had gone with a flat four midfield to try and give the side more creativity.

He went back to a three here, supported by Spurr and Chris Humphrey from the sides in wing-back slots.

“We had been playing with two in the middle quite a bit, different people in there.

“You know what you are going to get from John and I thought it was the right time to bring him in.

“He gives you experience and never lets you down, he’s a great team man.

“Overall, I thought that we looked solid defensively, the midfield worked extremely hard and we looked a threat going forward.

“On another day, we could have had a couple more goals.”

Spurr’s performance down the left caught my eye.

The former Blackburn man’s inclusion enabled Greg Cunningham to move across into the centre of defence.

Speaking to Spurr during pre-season, he admitted that the wing-back role was not one he had played too often.

But he managed perfectly well against QPR.

Something which Spurr has brought with him is a good long throw, and we saw that in use in the build-up to the first goal in the 22nd minute.

He launched one in from the left, with it headed back out to him by a defender.

Spurr returned a testing cross into the box, one which keeper Alex Smithies came out to punch but only flapped into the path of Gallagher.

The midfielder aimed a shot at goal on the half-volley, the ball hitting BECKFORD on the chest in the six-yard box and going into the net.

It was a lead which Preston doubled seven minutes into the second half.

Daniel Johnson slid a pass down the right channel for Beckford to chase.

Beckford stretched to turn a low cross into the middle, Onuoha putting through his own goal as Robinson lurked.