Preston 2, Brentford 3: Dave Seddon’s big match verdict

Preston North End's Tom Barkhuizen scores his side's second goal
Preston North End's Tom Barkhuizen scores his side's second goal
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Successive defeats and a first Deepdale setback have seen Preston walk into uncharted territory in Alex Neil’s reign.

Until Saturday Neil had not presided over back-to-back North End losses, nor had his players left their own pitch as beaten men this season.

Preston North End's Sean Maguire scores his side's equalising goal to make the score 1-1

Preston North End's Sean Maguire scores his side's equalising goal to make the score 1-1

It is the first real bump in the road they’ve hit with the Scotsman in charge, a bump being made more painful by a shortage of defenders.

Unlike the defeat to Wolves when you could make a strong case for PNE deserving a draw, there could be few complaints about finishing second best to a lively Brentford side.

While Neil’s men twice hit equalisers with the two best goals of the contest, a third was to prove a step too far.

The West Londoners made sure they kept the door shut after making it 3-2 and North End never really threatened to bring it back to 3-3.

Brentford generally held the upper hand, that said their goals owed much to a stroke of good fortune and some poor home defending.

That’s not to take anything away from their movement and build-up play which on the day was superior to what Preston could serve-up.

You could probably put this one down to a bad day at the office.

The running and energy of the suspended Alan Browne was missed, while the absence of a hospitalised Ben Davies left a big hole at the back.

Davies had an operation to remove his appendix on the morning of the game and faces a few weeks out of action.

With Tommy Spurr also having gone under the knife to repair damage in his knee, replacements were in short supply.

The obvious one was Andy Boyle but Neil went instead for Calum Woods.

It was a big call, the North End manager thinking the more mobile Woods would be better equipped to cope with Brentford’s movement in their forward line.

The shipping of three goals might suggest that was the wrong selection, although Woods generally did okay.

He got the sponsors’ man of the match award, although those who chose proved something of a lone voice among the 12,005 crowd.

We will get to see Boyle on Wednesday night though, by reason of a suspension for skipper Paul Huntington.

The Cumbrian Cannavaro got his fifth yellow card for a foul in the build-up to Brentford’s first goal and has to sit out Aston Villa’s visit as punishment.

PNE are now without a win since beating Hull last month but let us not be overly gloomy about that run.

The point they got in the 2-2 draw against Sunderland was a hard-fought one.

At Fulham they were 10 seconds away from winning, then they were the better side for long spells of the Wolves defeat.

Saturday was the first time in that run in which Preston had fallen short in a lot of areas of the pitch.

Probably five or six of the team were off colour, while Brentford looked on song.

Over the last few years they have been a bogey team for PNE, eight meetings until earlier this year ending in seven Brentford wins and a draw.

Preston’s 4-2 victory in February was to bring to an end that sorry run but things swung back to the Bees this time.

Neil had made three changes to the side, two of them enforced by Browne and Davies’ absences.

Callum Robinson got the nod to take over from Browne in the No.10 role, Sean Maguire returning from a hamstring injury to replace Josh Harrop on the left.

Maguire does play that wider role very well but would a more central role have suited him better in this game?

The No.10 job looked to be a tough task for Robinson, that said his movement off the ball which played a key part in Maguire’s goal was worthy of note.

Preston were bright for the first 20 minutes, that probably their best spell of the game.

Tom Barkhuizen, Jordan Hugill and Robinson all had sights of goal in that period.

Robinson’s chance came as Preston counter-attacked from a Brentford free-kick, with Chris Maxwell’s punch collected by Daniel Johnson and fed to Maguire.

His pass found Robinson who hit the stanchion at the back of the goal.

Brentford went ahead in the 25th minute, Huntington stopping a run from Henrick Dalsgaard but play allowed to continue as Marc Jozefzoon took possession and moved into the box.

Jozefzoon let fly with a shot which Maxwell parried on to the head of Nico YENNARIS who found the net.

North End equalised four minutes before the interval, Robinson winning possession off Ryan Woods in the centre circle and finding Maguire with a pass five yards inside the Brentford half.

MAGUIRE set off up field, Robinson’s decoy run seeing the visitors defence back off.

The Irishman pulled the trigger just inside the box, shooting low into the bottom corner of the net.

Moments after the game re-started, Yennaris and Hugill collided with the Bees man collapsing to the floor out cold.

For eight minutes he was treated on the pitch, a hush descending over Deepdale before he was stretchered off to warm applause.

Having seem the collision again, it looked accidental and for Brentford boss Dean Smith to attach blame to Hugill was wrong.

Smith’s men regained the lead 11 minutes after half-time, Josh Clarke’s low cross finding Romaine Sawyers just inside the box.

SAWYERS’ first shot hit his standing leg but he dug the ball out and got away a second effort which deflected past Maxwell.

Back came Preston with a 67th minute leveller, Maguire’s cross scooped clear by Clarke but only to Barkhuizen in the ‘D’ on the edge of the box.

BARKHUIZEN chested the ball down and slammed a fine right-foot shot into the bottom corner.

Only for three minutes were they level though, the excellent Jozefzoon playing a one-two with Kamohelo Mokotjo to go past Josh Earl.

Jozefzoon’s pull-back found Ollie WATKINS who shot home from six yards.