Why Preston North End boss kept substitutions to the minimum against Blackpool

On a night when he had an extra substitute available to him, Preston North End manager Ryan Lowe chose to make only a single change in the derby win against Blackpool.

By Dave Seddon
Friday, 8th April 2022, 12:30 pm

It was the first time in his Lilywhites stewardship that Lowe had limited himself to just one substitution, with Ali McCann replacing Greg Cunningham in the 73rd minute of the 1-0 victory at Deepdale.

With it being Cunningham’s first game in two months after a calf injury, Lowe chose to go with McCann’s fresh legs for the final quarter of an hour or so to help see the game out.

Four substitutions rather than the standard three were open to North End following the head injury suffered by Seasiders goalkeeper Dan Grimshaw early in the game.

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Preston North End midfielder Ali McCann comes on for Greg Cunningham against Blackpool

Grimshaw lost consciousness in a collision with PNE striker Cameron Archer and had to be taken to hospital.

That substitution came under concussion protocol which allowed Blackpool still to make three standard substitutions – the rule then allowed North End to make four changes if they desired.

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It was the same scenario on the opening day of the season when North End goalkeeper Declan Rudd had to come off after getting bang on the head playing against Hull City.

Three further subs were allowed for PNE, with Hull able to make four.

In the main, Lowe has used all three of his subs as Preston manager, a couple of times he’s made two changes.

Explaining his thought process against Blackpool, Lowe said: “We had the extra substitute with them having to make the concussion change.

"Sometimes you can spoil the rhythm of a game by making subs and I didn’t want to do that.

"I’m learning that you don’t always have to make changes.

"With the one we did make, we knew that Greg probably last the full 90 minutes because he’d been out for a while.

"We felt that Josh Bowler was beginning to get a bit of joy on that side so we brought Ali on.

"I wouldn’t want to be going up against Ali who is a little terrier, he stops people doing things.

"Ali has been doing a fantastic job coming on and I thought he gave us more energy down that side, it worked well.”

There is a clamour among the PNE fans for McCann to start more games, the former St Johnstone man having been used sparingly by Lowe when it comes to midfield starts.

Lowe stuck with his regular trio of Ben Whiteman, Alan Browne and Daniel Johnson for Blackpool, all three producing the goods.

However, the temptation must be there at some stage between now and the end of the season to give McCann his chance in the middle.

He’s started in both wing-back positions under Lowe and a handful of times in midfield.

A key statistic from the derby clash was the timing of Cameron Archer’s winner.

It was only the third goal North End have scored during Lowe’s reign in the first half of a game.

The other two were Patrick Bauer’s flick against Birmingham and Emil Riis’ close-range finish at West Bromwich Albion.

Archer’s goal came in the third minute of first-half stoppage-time, with 11 added on in total after Grimshaw’s injury.