Tom Sandells' verdict - Huddersfield Town 1-0 Preston North End: Three in a row and the panic sets in
If the alarm bells were ringing after Saturday’s defeat to Reading for PNE fans, we may now be nearing DEFCON 1.
As each game goes by the dismay and panic within the fan-base rises and losing games does nothing to prevent it worsening.
This was a key game for the Lilywhites’ faithful as they felt that Hudderfield Town, fresh from a 5-1 hammering at the hands of Fulham, were a team that PNE should beat. Not that a result against them wouldn’t be a surprise or that they would like to think Frankie McAvoy’s side would win – it was an expectation.
As it turned out, that wasn’t the case.
Although in fairness to them they did not even concede a shot on target, but they still left the John Smith’s Stadium with nothing.
The situation was exasperated post match as a banner in protest was unfurled and captain Alan Browne seemed to have a disagreement with the travelling contingent.
He went closer to the fans than any of the other North Enders to apologise as he felt the goal was his fault, Duane Holmes stealing through having been marked by the Irishman.
The skipper was trying to front it up, to show he understood their frustrations and take ownership on a mistake he felt he’d made.
He was greeted with disdain and it left a sour taste for both players and fans after the game.
On the whole, PNE were the better side. They created chances and should have made more of them.
When you do not do that you leave yourselves open to be hurt in any sort of bizarre fashion – be it one well worked move, a 40-yarder or an own goal.
They must put teams away. McAvoy seemed to have got things right for the most part, Josh Earl’s inclusion from the start raised eyebrows as he came in for his first start since the FA Cup defeat to Wycombe Wanderers in January.
It was an inspired choice as he was the chief threat that North End carried, particularly in the first half, as he was positive and his crossing excellent.
Three times the academy product put wonderful balls in across the face of goal that no one would finish off.
He did fade out of the contest as the game wore on and that may be part of why PNE created less in the second half.
The change in strike partnership didn’t seem to get more out of North End though, with Emil Riis and Scott Sinclair both coming off the bench.
Chopping and changing is always a part of trying to find the right combination that will work but players will also need time to build up relationships and get used to each other.
Despite not being up against much, if the defence is now in a better place – one performance doesn’t mean it is sorted – then more focus can be put on the final third.
Last season PNE didn’t look much like conceding at all, which always gave them a chance in games – much like Huddersfield stayed in it on Tuesday and benefited.
The away side nearly took the lead eight minutes in, Daniel Johnson closing down Levi Colwill , taking the ball to the edge of the box and seeing his shot deflected just wide.
If they take the lead, it’s an entirely different game and the Terriers likely sink without a trace as their fans were booing them even playing backwards passes – but PNE could not
Earl, who was certainly a positive as he caught the eye on his return to the side, then set up Ched Evans who saw a shot cleared off the line and later sliced a volley over the bar. The home side didn’t trouble in the first 45 minutes, and left the field to boos from the home support.
They were scarcely a threat before they took the lead with 16 minutes to go as Josh Koroma played Holmes in and Sepp van den Berg overcompensated as he tracked back to give the home side the lead.
Sorba Thomas hit the post not long after as the home side got their tails up, backed by the home crowd.
North End made changes in an attempt to get something from the game but they could not muster much worthwhile in testing the goalkeeper.
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