Swansea City 1 Preston North End 0: Dave Seddon's verdict - Wales proving a tough nut to crack for Ryan Lowe

Ryan Lowe remains unbeaten in England as Preston North End manager but Wales is a different matter.

By Dave Seddon
Sunday, 23rd January 2022, 8:00 am

There’s something which puts the buffers in the way of the ‘Lowecomotion’ when it crosses the Severn Bridge.

Defeat to Swansea City on Saturday was the first for PNE in the Championship under Lowe’s management.

Two weekends ago in the Principality they lost to Cardiff in the FA Cup.

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Tempers flare late in Preston North End's defeat against Swansea City

A glance at the fixture list tells us that a repeat trip to Cardiff in the league is scheduled for March 12.

It was an afternoon of toil in the main for North End at the far end of the M4.

Plenty of effort, plenty of huff and puff but little in the way of quality.

Swansea weren’t much better creatively but won the game with a top-drawer finish from Ryan Manning.

PNE striker Ched Evans drives in a shot which Swansea's Joel Latibeaudiere attempts to block

Possession was gifted to him in the first place by a slack Ben Whiteman pass but it was hardly handing it to Manning on a plate.

He still had to advance several paces – unchallenged it must be said – before rifling a shot home from 25 yards.

It was such quality Lowe’s men could not match, with very little of what they tried coming off.

They must have known it was not their day deep into time added on when Ryan Ledson let fly from the edge of the box.

North End's Matthew Olosunde puts in a cross against Swansea

It was on target, would have at least made the keeper work, however it struck team-mate Greg Cunningham on the edge of the six-yard box and flew wide of the post.

Maybe we shouldn’t have expected much at the ground formerly known as the Liberty Stadium, now know as the Swansea.com Stadium.

This was a sixth defeat in seven visits, last season’s win having no one there to see it.

It had looked like this latest trip would also be played in an empty ground, with the Welsh Government having placed restrictions of supporters attending sporting events.

PNE manager Ryan Lowe and his No.2 Mike Marsh try to work things out

Those restrictions ended on Friday and while Swansea had only played one game in January behind closed doors, there was a spring in the step of the home faithful in the build-up.

The long journey from Lancashire was made by a few hundred Preston fans who got a clap from Lowe before kick-off and again at the end.

Bar the Ledson shot and a first-half header from Ched Evans which was tipped over, there was little in the way of chances created to raise the excitement levels.

Lowe didn’t have what he would consider his strongest XI out on the pitch by any means.

Suspension kept Andrew Hughes out and Brad Potts was injured. Then Tom Barkhuizen pulled up in the first half.

The wing-back slots are an issue for Lowe at the moment.

They are key moving parts in how he wants to play but he’s unable to get consistency of selection there.

Lowe started Barkhuizen at right wing-back, with Joe Rafferty drafted in on the left side of the pitch.

The right-footed Rafferty playing on the left meant the team was unbalanced which limited an attacking threat down that side.

Barkhuizen provided far more of an outlet on the right, getting up the pitch several times and putting in the cross for Evans’ chance.

He was hurt in a challenge with Olivier Ntcham in the last 10 minutes of the first half.

Straight away the signal came from the physio that Barkhuizen’s race was run and he came to the side of the pitch. But with sub Matthew Olosunde not ready to come on, Barkhuizen went back on to fill a gap.

He still managed to make a last gallop down the wing before giving way to Olosunde, later leaving the ground wearing a protective boot on his damaged ankle.

Olosunde seemed rather out of place when he came on.

An early touch saw him put a cross into the front row of the stand rather than on a colleague’s head, Lowe making no attempt to hide his frustration on he touchline.

The American got into it a bit more in the second half but in general looked like a man who had only featured twice this season.

Lowe likes his wing-backs to operate as wingers in the main but here he was having to play two full-backs.

He changed direction in the second half, taking off Rafferty and replacing him with Swansea old boy Scott Sinclair.

That saw a switch to a flat back four, with Olosunde and Cunningham the full-backs.

Managers say they tend to learn more in defeat than victory and this was one of those occasions for Lowe.

He’ll have seen where the void in personnel and quality were, the treatment room and transfer window two avenues for filling those gaps.

Lowe will have Hughes back for West Bromwich on Wednesday night, possibly Potts and Josh Earl.

While North End lacked that bit of quality creativity, Swansea weren’t blessed with much either on Saturday.

They moved the ball nicely in the first half but didn’t do anything particularly threatening with it.

Their purple patch was at the start of the second half when they got their winner.

Manning’s strike was followed by a couple of shots from Cyrus Christie, the first of which was well saved by Daniel Iversen.

The PNE goalkeeper then denied Manning a second goal from a similar position he’d broken the deadlock.

Perhaps this was a little bit of an after show from North End following the excitement of the second-half comeback against Sheffield United.

They certainly didn’t hit any of the heights seen in spells of that game.

Alan Browne did his best to get them moving , his run and pull back creating a chance for Daniel Johnson which was blocked by a defender sliding across him.

In terms of movement and passes being slid down the sides, there wasn’t enough from PNE as a team.

The good news is that they don’t visit Wales again for seven weeks. It’s the Midlands next to face the Baggies, a tough test which will need a big improvement on this.

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