Preston North End 1 Blackburn 4: Dave Seddon's verdict - PNE caught cold by Rovers' early start and they never recovered

Preston North End fans were urged to remember that the derby clash with Blackburn Rovers had an old-school 7.30pm kick-off.

By Dave Seddon
Tuesday, 26th April 2022, 8:00 am

A scenario which needed to be avoided was the faithful clicking through the turnstiles thinking it was the standard start time and missing the first quarter of an hour of action.

The fans got the message and were in their seats in time, it’s a shame the North End players weren’t as switched on.

By the time 7.45pm came around, they’d conceded twice and were on the road to a derby battering by a Blackburn Rovers side who were everything on the night which PNE were not.

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Preston North End midfielder Daniel Johnson shields the ball from Blackburn's Lewis Travis

It was not just that period from 7.30pm to 7.45pm when things went wrong, it was pretty much all the way through to the final whistle around 9.25pm that they toiled.

Nearly three weeks on from that great night against Blackpool when everything clicked, Monday evening was a demolition derby of the wrong kind, made worse by it being broadcast live on Sky Sports.

Having the neighbours score four in your own back yard was bad enough but it being served-up as well to the armchair and bar stool brigade added to the pain of defeat.

Bar the first three or four minutes, North End struggled all game. When Rovers left-back Harry Pickering was booked just 50 seconds in, you hoped that was the start of a bad night for the visitors.

Preston North End manager Ryan Lowe after the defeat to Blackburn at Deepdale

Anything but. they undid the hosts with a free-kick to gain the lead and then doubled it with a shot from distance.

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PNE skipper Alan Browne halving the deficit produced eight minutes of hope before another free-kick led to Rovers restoring a two-goal lead.

All that happened before half-time, with the second-half in its infancy when a fourth goal hit the back of the Preston net and a number of fans decided that was the time to head for home.

Preston North End defender Patrick Bauer challenges in the air with Blackburn striker Sam Gallagher at Deepdale

Ryan Lowe spoke post-match of the need to impress on his squad that their holidays didn’t start until next month.

Should that message have to made clear to a group of professional footballers?

It was an accusation aimed from the stands that some of the players looked like they already had their minds on the coconut oil and San Miguel.

Was that the explanation behind a performance which led to the heaviest home defeat since the opening afternoon of the season?

Blackburn Rovers defender Darragh Lenihan gets above PNE's Emil Riis to head his side's third goal at Deepdale

It would be churlish though, to put the outcome solely down to North End’s inadequacies.

Take nothing away from Blackburn, they played very well, with their midfield and attack in particular superior to PNE.

They pressed high in a well-drilled fashion and dominated the middle of the park, always seeming to have that extra man in there.

The possession count was 55%-45% in Preston’s favour but that slanted their way in the second half when Rovers were in a position to invite their hosts on to them and go forward on the counter attack.

It’s nights like this which add weight to the argument that perhaps a bigger summer change to the Deepdale squad than is maybe intended, needs to be done.

Maybe that’s too knee-jerk and Ryan Lowe will be able to coax more out of some of the current players with the help of some fresh faces.

But it’s this sort of performance that could see him knocking on the boardroom door asking for some more dealing in and out to be done.

Lowe’s charges were chasing this game from the ninth minute onwards, Pickering’s free-kick from the Rovers left-wing met in the box by Ben Brereton Diaz who angled a header across goal and against the inside of the far post.

Back spun the ball into the six-yard box where Sam Gallagher reacted faster than the bystanders in white shirts to nod it home.

Their second goal three minutes later saw John Buckley collect a pass and stride through the PNE half, pulling the trigger on a low right-foot shot from 25 yards which caught Andrew Hughes’ foot and found the bottom corner.

Browne’s goal as the half-hour mark made things interesting for a short time. Greg Cunningham cut inside off the left and exchanged passes with Daniel Johnson, before finding Browne inside the box.

The PNE skipper got it caught under his feet somewhat but managed to get a left-foot shot away which hit Scott Wharton in the chest and flew into the roof of the net.

Game on? It was until Rovers scored their third goal in the 37th minute.

Awarded a free-kick in a position which lent itself both to a left-foot shot or a right-foot cross, they chose the latter.

Joe Rothwell lifted it over to the far post where Darragh Lenihan rose high to loop a header back over Daniel Iversen into the net.

A 3-5-2 system hadn’t worked in the first half so Lowe changed to a midfield diamond in a 4-4-2 for the second, putting on Sean Maguire for Cunningham.

North End were still finding their feet with it when Brereton Diaz cut across the pitch from left to right and slid in Lewis Travis who went past Andrew Hughes before shooting past Iversen.

They toiled from there, Emil Riis and Cameron Archer snuffed out by the Rovers back four, with little created behind them.

We’ve seen seasons drift to a finish a number of times before in recent years, this one appears to be going the same way.