Tim Mercer's PNE Fans' Panel verdict: Schoolboy defending at start of the second half

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The last time I witnessed capitulation on this scale in a home match we at least had the ‘excuse’ of being in the re-election zone at the bottom of the fourth tier in the old Division Four.

I cannot remember seeing the same wherever we have played in the second tier, regardless of its ‘branding’, including seasons that ended in relegation!

This was the match when we were supposed to build on the four solid points gained from the last two matches, especially as they had been away and so had partially offset our recent and dreadful home record of three consecutive defeats. We can now make that four, along with the clear damage noted in the players’ confidence the moment we conceded the second goal only seconds into the second half.

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It was real schoolboy stuff following North End’s kick-off, with a simple punt upfield to an unmarked Watford player who easily outpaced Liam Lindsay to slot home.

Preston North End's Duane Holmes battles with Watford's Jamal LewisPreston North End's Duane Holmes battles with Watford's Jamal Lewis
Preston North End's Duane Holmes battles with Watford's Jamal Lewis

That made it 2-1 to the Hornets and visibly knocked the stuffing out of the home players who had started brightly and seemingly full of the magic ingredient in a pulsating first half of numerous good chances. One of these put Preston into the lead for the opening goal following good work by Liam Millar and a neat back-heel finish by Will Keane. As half-time approached I felt confident we would keep the lead, but it was not to be as poor defending allowed a Watford player to steal in behind the back line for a well taken equaliser.

Such was the level of error at the start of the second half, that a fan near me had simply looked down at his pie as we kicked off only to look up in horror moments later to see the ball in the back of our net.

The visitors seemed able to cut through North End’s defence at will and if we are going to be honest could have made it six or seven.A quadruple substitution by Ryan Lowe made no difference to a team already and visibly well beaten, with the fourth goal signalling the usual mass exodus when a team is thumped in such an emphatic manner. The few remaining at the final whistle let their feelings be known to a dejected looking Lowe as he walked directly to the tunnel, eyes down and probably wondering what he can do next to try and pick up his shattered team.