What Ryan Lowe said immediately after Preston North End's 3-0 loss at Southampton

Ryan LoweRyan Lowe
Ryan Lowe
Che Adams and Stuart Armstrong were on the score sheet at St Mary's

Preston North End manager Ryan Lowe was left to rue his side’s first half performance, in Tuesday night’s 3-0 defeat to Southampton.

The Lilywhites made the long trip down to St Mary’s, for the second time this season after March’s meeting was postponed - due to a nearby fire. North End fell behind after 19 minutes, as Che Adams popped up with the opener.

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It was he who doubled the hosts’ lead just before the half-hour, after a slick exchange with David Brooks. And the game was as good as done before the break, when Stuart Armstrong curled home number three from range.

Post-match, Lowe said: “It was a game of two halves, really, for us. The game plan we set out to do, was nowhere near first half. The second was more like us; I know they had large parts of possession. The game was probably over at half time, but it was us second half. We came away from what we set out to do in the first half. You cannot give a good team like Southampton, those goals and those chances.

“There were a couple of individual errors, but the first half performance was nowhere near the levels. In the second half, I know they had to dig in because they are a fantastic team. We had to nullify their strengths and try to capitalise on their weaknesses. I felt if we could get two strikers - Emil and Milly - in the grass, up against their two centre-halves, because their two full backs go inside and wingers stay high and wide.

“But, not tracking runners, not retaining the ball at the top end of the pitch and giving them a free shot on the edge of the box - you cannot do that against quality players. The second half was a case of shutting up shop, trying to counter, get in their half and cause some problems from free-kicks or corners. We didn’t really do that, because we didn’t get on the ball enough or get in their half enough. I don’t look for excuses; the be all and end all is that the first half has cost us. We didn’t stay in the game long enough to try and get a result.”

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Lowe started young Noah Mawene and Jack Whatmough in midfield, with captain Alan Browne and Ryan Ledson on the bench. Lowe confirmed that neither of those senior players were fit enough to start the game, depleting PNE’s options further - with Ben Whiteman, Ali McCann and Brad Potts all sidelined.

“(Browne) barely trained and is struggling with his calf,” said Lowe. “I am in dialogue with him all the time. He is struggling at the moment, but he’s the captain, he’s our leader and he wants to be there for the players and get on the pitch. He is mindful and we are mindful of putting him out for a long period of time. Ledson is the same - 20 minutes. It’s needs must sometimes and I didn’t want it to go four or five. They came on and did a job.

“But, if Alan Browne is fit, he plays every day of the week. We are in a dialogue situation at the moment, because there is not much riding on the games as such - barring the passion and everything like that, of course. We have a duty of care to players who are not 100 per cent fit and Alan Browne is not 100 per cent fit at the minute. We’ll address Browney and Ledo after tonight, shut them down and wrap them up in cotton wool. We’ll see what we’ve got for Saturday.

“Jack has done fantastic there for us and young Noah, you are relying on an 18-year-old kid to go in. But, I am not afraid to put them in. Jack has been brilliant, but when you are coming up against Premier League players - they run off the back of you and they can hurt you. I thought the two midfielders were fantastic in trying to cope with that, because it is not easy. It has been that middle of the pitch; we’ve normally got enough in there to cope, but at the moment we haven’t.

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“Noah gave us the legs and energy, of course. Jack sat there to protect, with him. They all know we could’ve done better in the first half, but it’s not for the lack of trying. It is lack of decision making and quality, at times - that is most of our group. They tried; they just weren’t good enough. Individual errors and turnovers are the type of things that cost you and those are the mistakes we’ve made tonight.”

Duane Holmes was operating at right wing-back, but taken off after 39 minutes for Greg Cunningham. Ched Evans was then the final substitution on the night, over Layton Stewart. Lowe addressed those two decisions, post-match.

“He (Holmes) made the tackle on the edge of the box and they were shouting for a red card,” said Lowe. “I just felt, if he’d have made one more challenge it probably would’ve jeopardised us a bit. He has apologised to me, because he is a fantastic kid. I accept the apology; the performance wasn’t good enough and we know that. For him to apologise, that is a man. He hasn’t let us down, he has been brilliant for us.

“Maybe it was a tough ask for him to go out there and do that job. He could’ve pushed up a bit more and Jordan could’ve come across potentially, but he is a Premier League quality striker isn’t he? And he can cause problems, so I forgive Duano for that. Milly ran his course and we put Ched on to try and get him up to speed. He is nowhere near up to speed, because he has missed a lot of football. Getting him on, it was to ruffle a few feathers a bit, protect the ball and get us up the pitch. We just needed to try and get some minutes into him.”

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