Exclusive Sean Gregan Preston North End column: Midfield absences proved key in defeat
From the outside looking in I would say that it proved very costly for Preston North End to have three midfielders missing against Reading.
Having Alan Browne, Ben Pearson and Ryan Ledson all sat in the stand left North End looking light in that area of the pitch.
You might point to other things costing them the goals but for me, midfield is such a key area.
It is where you can get hold of the game by the scruff of the neck and dictate the pace of the play. If you cannot quite get to grips in the middle, that can open up other parts of the pitch and lets the opposition play.
Pearson and Ledson are tacklers, Browne to an extent too, so for them all to miss out at once was a blow.
It shows how important discipline is. Pearson and Ledson are both suspended having got red cards.
Had Pearson kept his cool after the Bolton game, he would have been available for Saturday’s game.
Browne’s injury was just one of those things – injuries happen.
But suspensions can be self-inflicted and players need to watch their step.
Just at the moment North End’s form isn’t great – the league table tells you that.
It seems that they do more than okay for spells during games but then concede a goal and are up against it.
To have twice come back to score equalisers against Reading and still lose, is very frustrating.
Maybe the confidence is a little bit low at the moment, that can happen when you are short of a victory or two.
Confidence can add 20 or 30 per cent to a player’s game I have found.
If you are low on it, you might take the safe option or even try and do something a bit different which you then don’t get right.
With PNE, it might just need one of the midfield lads to come back or a bit of luck in a certain situation for things to change.
It is early in the season and time is on their side to get things right.
I’m sure Alex Neil is not panicking.
He won’t be liking how things are going and will be looking at different ways of putting points on the board.
Who knows, the trip to Leeds on Tuesday night could see things turn.
That sounds a bit daft, with Leeds top of the table and Preston second bottom.
But this could be a free hit for North End, it could be a coupon-buster,
Leeds have got a few players missing themselves at the moment – Kemar Roofe, Patrick Bamford and Pablo Hernandez are three who will be sitting the game out.
Something that Preston can cling to,is that they won at Elland Road three weeks ago in the League Cup.
Both teams made some changes that night but it was still a great victory for Neil’s side, especially playing with 10 men for an hour after the red card for Ledson.
Neil will be able to use that in his team talk, and build something from that.
If North End can stay solid and work to a gameplan, they could frustrate Leeds and who knows?