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Preston North End fans’ panel verdict: Something has to change...and fast!

Declan Rudd seems to be asking Daniel Johnson how a header from Liam Cooper crossed the line
Declan Rudd seems to be asking Daniel Johnson how a header from Liam Cooper crossed the line

JOHN ROPER:

An away fixture against the side who are top of the league, without several of your best players, was never going to be an easy task for out of form North End.

And so it proved with the boys going down to a convincing 3-0 defeat.

No doubt there will be many theories put forward as to why we suffered this latest reverse but I think it is better to focus on what occurred on the green stuff as opposed to what went on in the boardroom.

I thought Alex Neil played the wrong formation for a start with the full-backs getting little cover.

He knew that Leeds get the ball wide and through the middle so why not 4-4-1-1.

That way at least the opposition would have to beat two men going down the flanks. Anyway it is his decision and he will stand and fall by it.

I also lost count of the number of times we got to the halfway line and gave the ball away as our ball retention on the evening was very poor.

Generally Leeds were just stronger on the ball as we had far too many players on the evening that were lightweight and shrugged off far too easily.

Up front we offered little and the failure to sign a decent striker came back to haunt us big time last night and I have to say that Alex Neil looked a very forlorn figure on the touchline at the end of the game.

Playing in the green and yellow, North End had their best spell of the game right in the first 10 minutes with Robinson having a shot well saved and a Johnson effort that was also on target.

As the half wore on the home side got more into the game and North End were struggling to keep up with Leeds on several occasions.

The formation just wasn’t coping with what the home side were throwing at us and the only surprise was that it took Leeds over thirty five minutes to open the scoring.

A corner from the right was headed low down by Cooper and Rudd went to tip it round the post only to steer it in the net via the ineffective Daniel Johnson stood on the post.

It was a shocker to concede but Rudd did make an excellent save after the goal to at least save any further blushes before half-time.

North End started the second half better and an early Harrop shot gave the travelling 288 hope that this might be a sign of things to come.

In fact just before the hour, Callum Robinson had the ball in the net at the back post only to be ruled offside by the assistant right in front of the North End fans.

As in the first half the Peacocks gathered momentum as the half wore on and while North End were still in the game at 1-0, once Roberts lobbed the ball over Rudd to make it two with twenty minute to go it was game over and North End were happy to keep the score down.

The substitutions offered little in terms of getting back into the game and when Roberts made it three with an unmarked header North Ends night of misery was complete.

It was always going to be a tough game even with the home side short of their two best players but North End made it even more difficult for themselves with a poor formation and a lack strength on the ball.

I don’t want to blame any players in particular because this was a team defeat just as the league cup win was a team victory.

However I fully expect Chris Maxwell to be in goal at Sheffield on Saturday and North End must come up with some different attacking options whatever they may be as we were woefully weak up front at Elland Road.

It is early days but the position is not good and after a disastrous fans’ forum on Monday evening the confidence right through the club is as low as it has been since the departure of Graham Westley. Something needs to be done and quickly.