Preston North End verdict - It WAS a bad day at the office against Stoke City despite Ryan Lowe's claims of the opposite

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Preston North End suffered their second successive defeat on Saturday as they fell to Stoke City 2-0.

Two second half goals were enough for the Potters, with Will Smallbone and Tyrese Campbell finding the back of the net.

It was a result that meant that PNE slipped into the bottom half of the table, although a win could have seen them end the day as high as sixth. So over the course of 90 minutes they would have either been a play-off side or one that is now in danger of relegation, such was the reaction after the game.

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It is easy to get caught up in the emotion after a loss, especially one where you fail to register a shot on target, but the nature of the division is such that things can change very quickly, and that goes for good and bad.

Preston North End's Robbie Brady appeals to referee Matthew Donohue for a penalty.Preston North End's Robbie Brady appeals to referee Matthew Donohue for a penalty.
Preston North End's Robbie Brady appeals to referee Matthew Donohue for a penalty.

In reality, those at the bottom of the league will be especially poor sides whilst the rest of the division battle it out to decide who can put the longest run of good performances together. This season’s Championship is not one of the highest quality, that is why the results are even more random than normal and the table is even tighter than normal.

PNE on Saturday did not look like a side that will be troubling the play-offs this season, although admittedly they could well do by 9:45pm on Tuesday after the game against Huddersfield Town.

They looked a side out of ideas, lacking in creativity or quality.

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It is not the first time that has been said but in previous games boss Ryan Lowe has come out and defended his side and their creating of chances and that taking them will come. On Saturday they didn’t create chances.

Preston North End's Freddie Woodman reacts to conceding.Preston North End's Freddie Woodman reacts to conceding.
Preston North End's Freddie Woodman reacts to conceding.

In the past there has been one or two moments in a game that could have turned into a goal, there were no shots on target for the Lilywhites at Deepdale. As a home side, who is averaging far and above what they have been used to for average attendances, they need to do more.

Lowe said that he didn’t feel it was a bad day at the office for his side but I must disagree. I felt Stoke came and did a job on North End. For the first half an hour Alex Neil’s side controlled the game, both in and out of possession.

When on the ball they looked measured, when off it they looked aggressive in their press and prevented North End from getting out of their half. Lowe’s men did get themselves back in the game for the final 15 minutes of the first half but even then it was an even game. That continued into the second half until Stoke scored and regained their dominance in the game until the end.

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There was never really a period that felt like North End were on top or in control. It was a bad day at the office, Preston couldn’t keep the ball for long enough, they could not create enough chances or enough moments in the game where they looked threatening.

It’s an all too familiar tale and fans are showing their disapproval with their feet.

Well before the end of the game on Saturday Deepdale was very nearly empty. The level of apathy around the club is once again growing. It seems that each time the supporters reach a level of disinterest, it takes less time to get back their again.

Their enthusiasm was at fever pitch in the summer, now enthusiasm amongst the fanbase is quite hard to come by.

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This is also off the back of a potential best away day of the season in the 3-2 win at Norwich City and more alarmingly just seven days before the derby at Bloomfield Road.

It is becoming more and more important that North End, and Ryan Lowe, give the fans something to shout about again. There needs to be more entertainment in their games and we must see more of Lowe’s style that is supposed to be attacking with six and defending with four, the score one more than you mentality that he has preached about since his appointment.

We have seen glimpses but they must find a way for it to become a regular occurance.

Thankfully for PNE there is another game quickly on the horizon, Huddersfield are in terrible form and very nearly propping up the division. It is an open goal, convert and it is expected, miss and you look very silly. PNE must start converting more often, especially before the big one next week.

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The first chance of the game against Stoke came after 11 minutes as Campbell got in behind the North End defence and attempted to chip Freddie Woodman from a tight angle but the effort was smothered.

After 23 minutes Storey volleyed towards goal from a header down into his path but despite claims for a penalty, nothing was given and it was instead behind for a corner.

Preston had another claim for a penalty on 40 minutes as Browne released Hughes after a good run off the ball from the centre half but as the Welshman tumbled referee Matthew Donuhue was quick to wave play on.

To make it three, PNE were again claiming for a spot kick in first half stoppage time as the ball ricocheted around the area, although it seemed the strongest shout so far for a penalty, it was again ignored.

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Dwight Gayle went down the left side of the PNE box int the second half before delivering a low cross into the centre for Smallbone to slam home with his instep on 58 minutes, sending the away support into raptures.

Gayle nearly turned from provider to scorer as Tyrese Campbell's cross from the left picked out Stoke's no.11 who steered his header marginally past the far post after 64 minutes.

Stoke were not to be disappointed for long however as two minutes later they doubled their lead. One long ball forward from a Stoke clearance gave Campbell the chance to show his pace, the fleet-footed forward getting there ahead of Diaby before slotting the ball beyond the defender and Woodman and into the far corner.