Preston North End are down but not out after defeat to Millwall in race for Championship play-offs

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Preston North End suffered disappointment on Saturday as they were beaten 2-0 by Millwall.

Disappointment at a crucial juncture of the season – with a play-off spot up for grabs – is nothing new to many North End supporters.

Tom Bradshaw headed his side into the lead in the first half, getting on the end of Zian Flemming's inswinging cross from the left on his right foot to send the ball into the far corner beyond a sprawling Freddie Woodman.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In the second half he went from provider to finisher as Jake Cooper headed the ball down from Scott Malone's free kick into the middle of the North End box, with acres of room the Dutchman volleyed home.

Preston North End's Troy Parrott with a second half effortPreston North End's Troy Parrott with a second half effort
Preston North End's Troy Parrott with a second half effort

It was a good finish, he had to get his foot high to stay over the ball and he did well to keep calm and keep the shot under his control, but the goal should not have happened. It was poor defending from the away side.

First of all, they lost the initial header and then were switched off for the second ball – both goals on the day came from second phases – and for a striker to have so much room inside their own box simply should not happen.

When It had been stressed to the players in the build up to the game that the Lions were a threat from set pieces, to lose to two is particularly disappointing. Nearly half of Millwall's goals this season have come from set pieces, more than any other source.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

North End failed to deal with their main threat and they were made to pay for it.

There were still positives though, despite the damaging defeat. On another day, Preston would have scored. It is of course just hypothetical but had they had someone like Ched Evans or Emil Riis fit, it could have been a different story.

Lowe made a big decision going into the game too, making one change and bringing Robbie Brady in for Alvaro Fernandez. You could see the logic behind it, the same was done at Rotherham and QPR – both PNE wins.

The reasons behind the young Spaniard’s omission was that he might struggle with the hosts’ physicality. Fernandez has been excellent for PNE of late and he showed like he had plenty of energy to offer when he came on with 22 minutes to go.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The four changes all made at the same time also seemed to disrupt PNE’s rhythm as they were on top. But there is not point in getting bogged down on those choices. Sometimes they will come off, sometimes they will not. Of late, Lowe has got more right than wrong so he should be afforded some leniency.

They had good moments in the game and created some good chances, so to come away with no goals is a poor day at the office given the quality of the opportunities.

Daniel Johnson and Josh Onomah were again good performers but they could not create enough for those in front of them, in a clear cut sense, to find the breakthrough.

Although both are seen as more technically orientated players that are not prepared to do the dirty work, both put in admirable shifts and used their frames to their advantage.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Onomah looked as if he’d replaced his foot with a pillow at times, never letting the ball get too far away from him.

It was a tough afternoon for the strikers. Tom Cannon got little in the way of chances and is a player that is generally reliant on service in order to get the best out of him. Troy Parrott was supposed to be his foil not he day and the Irishman struggled.

Shaun Hutchinson and Jake Cooper are good defenders at this level but Parrott had multiple opportunities where he managed to get into good areas or worked himself half a yard but he insisted on cutting back again, or trying to carve out a perfect opening. It’s perhaps a product of a lack of confidence but it did hinder Preston at times in London.

With a fully fit forward line, he might only be the fourth choice striker but PNE need they whole squad to step up if they are to make the top six. The performance was not as good as Reading, nor the second half at QPR, but it was by no means a bad performance.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

They will have to lick their wounds and prepare themselves for a trip to Swansea City – they're down right now, but they're not out.

There are still 12 points to play for, four games with teams around them still to play each other.

PNE have opened the door for the chasing pack by losing, and given the Lions a leg up, but it seems simply impossible to think that the rest of the sides around them will not drop points between now and the end of the season.

It is a setback in their season, it is a blow for their push for the play-offs but it is by no means terminal at this point.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Now is a time for calm heads, North End still have something to play-off with four games to go, they still have their fate in their own hands and can still make the play-offs.

They were supported by a sold out away end and the backing from the fans will be very important in helping them get over the line.

Two lapses of concentration cost them on Saturday but they were backed well, were applauded off after the game and will probably have the same thing at Swansea.

This next week will likely decide PNE’s fate. Swansea and then Blackburn Rovers, the second of the top six they must face before the end of the season.

Losing ground to Millwall puts more pressure on the game against the Swans but the Lilywhites have bounced back from disappointment before this campaign and they will need to again.

Related topics: