Where does Luton loss leave Alex Neil? Preston fan John Roper ponders future of manager
I stopped making excuses for the current North End regime several weeks ago and from what I saw in this game there was absolutely nothing to change my mind.
Preston are not in dire straits yet as far as the league position is concerned but I just do not know where our next point is coming from with the way we are playing.
This was a game we really needed to win to take the pressure off everyone and playing a mid table team at home, I felt it was a good opportunity. What I saw was the same old North End lumping it up early with Evans trying his best against the odds to try and make something from nothing.
The first half was lukewarm at best with Luton looking the most likely to break the deadlock. After the break, North End came out and were a little better for 10 minutes or so but the standard of football on show was more like mid table league one than lower middle Championship.
Alex Neil made five changes to the side beaten at Middlesbrough on Tuesday evening with Rafferty, Ledson, Johnson, Wiseman and Gordon replacing the Browne, Hughes, Potts, Gallagher and Barkhuizen. The game started quite scrappy but North End did have two early shouts for penalties on Evens neither of which troubled the referee.
Van Den Berg had a header that went well over the top but it was to be North End’s only effort in a very tepid first half performance. Lindsay lost the ball as the last man only for Rafferety to come across and save Lindsay from what would have been a very embarrassing mistake.
It was the away side who always looked the more likely to score and late on in the first half Luton had a shot deflected just over as the Hatters looked dangerous, particularly from long throws.
Right on half-time Iversen made a good save diving to his right but it was another half where North End looked low on confidence and short on ideas. No changes for North End and the second half started very much like the first, being scrappy with no flow to proceedings.
Ten minutes in there was some good work by Sinclair on the right but his shot was blocked. Immediately down at the other end Iversen made an excellent one handed save. North End introduced Maguire and Barkhuizen midway through the second half in search of the goal and shortly afterwards Evans had a chance that was saved by the Luton keeper.
Whiteman then had a shot over the bar as North End struggled to make good opportunities. Potts, and Bodin were introduced but two minutes later the visitors scored the goal that won the points.
A brilliant save by Iversen fell to Collins who shot back across the goal only for the ball to hit Iversen and go into the net. It was cruel luck for the North End keeper who had made several top class saves throughout the ninety minutes.
Gallagher was brought on near the end but it was all in vain as North End suffered the 20th league defeat of the season. So where this leaves North End and Alex Neil in particular is anyone’s guess.
Four defeats in the last five games and the team seemingly devoid of confidence. The game plan looked shambolic against a Luton side who were missing some first team regulars of their own.
The insistence on playing one forward at home in games like this just beggars belief and what the plan was for Sinclair and Gordon I just do not know. I bet the lad cannot wait for this loan period to end and to get back to Goodison Park.
Iversen was again in good form and couldn’t really be blamed for the goal and I thought the much maligned Rafferty had a really solid game coming in at left beck which is not his usual position.
Whether Alex Neil is still the manager against Norwich on Good Friday remains to be seen but North End are sliding and sliding fast in a season that is far from over as far as we are concerned.
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