Talking points from Preston North End's defeat to Swansea City - wing-backs becoming a big issue

There  was a first defeat in the league for Preston North End under Ryan Lowe when they were beaten 1-0 by Swansea City.

By Dave Seddon
Sunday, 23rd January 2022, 12:30 pm

Previously, PNE had won two and drawn two of their Championship matches with Lowe at the helm.

They had a couple of injury issues before and during the game which gave them an unbalanced look.

Ryan Manning’s 51st minute goal settled the game in Swansea’s favour, this a sixth defeat in seven visits to this corner of South Wales.

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Dave Seddon looks at some of the talking points from the game.

1. Creativity was in short supply for PNE. The arrival of Lowe has led to North End playing an attacking style of football – evident in the second half against Sheffield United last week when they poured forward despite only having 10 men.

On Saturday they couldn’t find that cutting edge, at times their build-up a bit too tentative.

Lowe pointed to his side taking a couple of touches too many at the back. While he wants play built from the defence and into midfield, the PNE felt there were opportunities to get forward much quicker.

Preston North End's Tom Barkhuizen in action against Swansea

Swansea’s defence play quite a high line, leaving space behind them which North End didn’t exploit.

2. Lack of stability in the wing-back areas. Lowe has been forced to shuffle and change his wing-backs in his opening spell as PNE boss.

He’s had three different starters at right wing-back, Ali McCann, Brad Potts and Tom Barkhuizen.

On the left, Lowe has started four different players there – Josh Earl, Greg Cunningham, Barkhuizen and Joe Rafferty.

PNE manager Ryan Lowe with director Peter Ridsdale

Rafferty got the nod at Swansea having done well as a half-time substitute in the Sheffield United game.

Left wing-back is not a totally alien position to him, with him having operated as a left-back quite frequently under Alex Neil.

Being right-footed though, Rafferty is not able to offer that natural flow to play with having to check inside more often than not.

On the other side of the pitch, the loss of Barkhuizen to injury before half-time was a big blow.

He got clattered in a tackle with Olivier Ntcham who didn’t appear for the second half – it looks like both of them came out second best.

Having to come on early seemed to catch Matthew Olosunde cold, with the sub struggling to get involved.

One cross which ended five rows into the stand didn’t impress Lowe to put it mildly judging by him turning the air blue!

3. When you know it’s not your day.....In the dying moments of stoppage-time, we saw the return of Emil Riis’s long throw. It was cleared as far as Ryan Ledson who drilled a shot goalwards.

On target, the keeper was having to dive, was this the equaliser? No. It struck Greg Cunningham who was on the edge of the six-yard box and didn’t have time to get out of the way.

The ball flew wide and with it went PNE’s chance of a point.

4. Always learning. Lowe is learning all the time about the players he has at his disposal. There is a decent core to the squad but clearly there are areas which need strengthening.

It will certainly get until the summer before he can really shape it the way he wants, the current transfer window only offering limited opportunities - January is never the easiest of markets.