Preston North End thrashed by Watford as Ryan Lowe's side destroyed in dismal second half

Preston North End's Alan Browne battles with Watford's Ken SemaPreston North End's Alan Browne battles with Watford's Ken Sema
Preston North End's Alan Browne battles with Watford's Ken Sema | CameraSport - Dave Howarth
PNE were beaten 1-5 by Watford on Saturday afternoon

Defeats in this manner always seem to be on the cards, or at least not far around the corner for Preston North End. There is a way to lose football matches and not for the first time, PNE were on the end of a good and proper thumping. Perhaps the most frustrating element of this particular one, though, was that North End's first half performance filled the home faithful with hope and optimism. But the afternoon got real ugly, real quick; a major step backwards after a successful effort to steady the ship in the previous two outings.

Four hard earned points on the road meant the Lilywhites headed into the Hornets clash feeling much better about themselves. And yet you still felt that Ryan Lowe's side needed a result and positive performance against Watford, to finish the seven day turnaround job off. Recent form suggested that the away side would provide a stern test. There had been a despondency about Deepdale the last time Preston played on home soil, but Lowe's side had the opportunity to keep winning the punters back that bit more after an improved 180 minutes of football.

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The visitors were not backed by a huge away following, but those who'd made the trip up from Hertfordshire made themselves heard early doors. And they almost had a goal to celebrate inside two minutes, as Ken Sema's cross deflected into a dangerous area and eventually dropped kindly for Ismael Kone - who curled over Freddie Woodman's crossbar. It was then Preston's turn to have a go and Ben Hamer had to produce a brilliant piece of goalkeeping, to claw Jordan Storey's powerful header away.

North End's response to that early let off was encouraging, with Milutin Osmajic and Ali McCann both brought into the team in place of Ched Evans and Duane Holmes. The next big chance fell PNE's way and Brad Potts must've thought he'd fired his team ahead. Liam Millar was lively down the left - buoyed by his impressive showing on Tuesday night - and his low cross picked out the unmarked, arriving Potts. North End's number 44 connected with the ball sweetly, but saw it rocket straight at Hamer - who pushed clear and then collected on the rebound.

Preston were in the ascendency, but there was a flair about Watford too and they almost hit the front moments later. The away side's corner from right caused all sorts of problems, but Wesley Hoedt and Vakoun Bayo got in each other's way and the ball trickled wide. The contest was looking increasingly unlikely to end goalless and Watford were left wondering how they hadn't broken the deadlock on 17 minutes. Bayo nipped in behind North End's high line, rounded Freddie Woodman and looked certain to score - only for Jack Whatmough to get back and block heroically. At the other end, Osmajic then saw a snapshot deflect over before Millar called Hamer into action from distance.

When on his game, the Canadian is the obvious spark in North End's side and the indications were that this could be his afternoon. And, when Millar picked the ball up and saw green grass ahead of him on 26 minutes, he went at makeshift full-back Tom Dele-Bashiru like a train. PNE's number 23 got to the byline and fired his cross in low and hard, which Will Keane flicked home wonderfully after squandering a good chance minutes prior. If a goalless finish had looked unlikely, so did a one-nil score line. Lowe's side could feel half time and will have been focused on getting in at the break ahead, but Watford levelled matters on 41 minutes. Captain Hoedt found himself high up the pitch and sent a pinpoint cross on to the head of Bayo, who nodded home at the back post.

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The second half had a tough act to follow from an entertainment perspective, with the first generating the highest xG of any Championship game this season. Kicking towards the Alan Kelly Town End, Preston will have sensed the opportunity to go and win the match. But, almost instantly from kick off Watford hit the front and stunned Deepdale. Matheus Martins mustn't have believed his luck, to find himself through on goal. He was simply too pacey and powerful for Liam Lindsay to catch and buried his strike into the bottom left corner.

North End were rocked but rallying and another glorious chance fell to Potts on 50 minutes. Millar was the man to make it happen again, as his cross deflected over to the right wing-back - only for Hamer to deny him from point blank range. And that missed opportunity didn't half look costly three minutes later, when Edo Kayembe had time to lift his head up from distance and thunder a ferocious strike into the bottom left corner. Preston's run without a home clean sheet extended to 15 games and left them with a mountain to climb.

Just shy of the hour mark, Lowe rung the changes - introducing Robbie Brady, Duane Holmes, Ched Evans and Andrew Hughes with Potts, Ben Whiteman, Keane and Whatmough the men to make way. Those changes saw Millar move over to the right and Lindsay shift inside to operate in the centre of the back three. North End were down but not out, until the 71st minute when Watford sliced the hosts open and Bayo curled home number four. The damage was not done there, either. Watford's fifth was blasted in six minutes later, as Ismael Kone drove forward and beat Woodman for sheer power with his strike. That was the cue for several supporters to head home, with the final 13 minutes plus stoppages a formality in front of a half-empty Deepdale.

Attendance: 14,389 (898 away)

PNE starting XI: Woodman; Storey, Whatmough (Hughes 58'), Lindsay, Potts (Brady 58'), Whiteman (Holmes 58'), McCann, Millar, Browne, Keane (Evans 58'), Osmajic. PNE unused subs: Cornell, Best, Ledson, Woodburn, Frokjaer

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