As opening days go, Preston North End’s loss to Millwall was not the start they wanted.
The 1-0 defeat provoked plenty of debate and Dave Seddon looks at some of the talking points from The Den.
1. Shot shy:
It’s stating the obvious that North End were blunt going forward, Alan Browne’s ninth minute shot which almost took Matt Smith’s head off guarding the line, being the only shot they had on target.
There were three chances for Sean Maguire in the first half – a header from Andrew Hughes’ driven cross which whistled wide, a shot which travelled beyond the far post and a run on goal when he was caught in two minds whether to shoot or pass and ended-up doing neither.
Maguire found it tough against Millwall’s defenders, with the little guy never going to win the physical battle against them.
He got moved first to the left-wing and then to the No.10 role when Alex Neil made his substitutions.
The latter position when Jayden Stockley was being used as the target man, saw him find room slightly more easily in the latter stages.
2. Brad Potts off the pace:
Maybe a surprise starter in light of him only playing twice in pre-season due to a knee injury.
Potts partnered Browne down the middle behind Maguire – the ‘running 10’ positions in which they shone for a good spell in the second half of last season.
The ex-Barnsley man looked slightly off the pace, not too surprising given the fact he missed the last six weeks of last season and a chunk of pre-season.
3. Patrick Bauer’s debut.
For me the big German was Preston’s stand-out player, that said Neil didn’t go overboard about the summer arrival post-match. Yes, Matt Smith won a few headers against him, but a 100% success rate when it comes to challenges in the air isn’t going to happen.
Bauer has done lots right to get ahead of Jordan Storey for the right-sided centre-half role and on Saturday he looked solid.
Much has been said about Preston being shot-shy but Declan Rudd only had a save from Jed Wallace to tip over before being beaten by the winger’s 33rd minute shot.
That the sum total of Millwall’s chances on goal so Bauer and Co must have done something right.
The 4-1-4-1 system got its first outing since last season, Neil having gone for 4-2-3-1 through the pre-season.
There is not a huge difference between the two but the emphasis seemed to be on getting Paul Gallagher on the ball down the left channel and then for him to spray it across the pitch to Tom Barkhuizen to try and unlock the home side that way.
It didn’t have the desired affect, Barkhuizen not finding the space to play and get beyond the Millwall back line.
5. Keeper question mark:
Just at the moment Rudd does not seem to have the confidence of some of the PNE faithful.
Could he have kept the Milwall goal out, having got both gloves to the shot? That said, there was plenty which could have been done to prevent the goal before the cross came into the box.
Over pre-season Rudd got back ahead of Connor Ripley in the keeper pecking order but will North End be tempted to add further competition before Thursday’s deadline?