Fans' panelist John Roper gives his take on Preston's defeat to Derby
Just like 12 months ago the Easter fixtures have all but put paid to Preston North End`s chance of sneaking into one of the final play-off spots.
This time it was Derby County who, in all honesty, came for a point and ended up going home with all three.
Alan Browne missed a penalty for North End with the score at 0-0 but he isn`t the first and he won`t be the last to miss from 12 yards so I think he should be cut some slack.
The fact of the matter is that North End are not prolific in the opposing box and just don`t have that cutting edge to make the difference.
I thought we looked jaded all round the park particularly later on and I feel the season’s efforts are now taking their toll on quite a number of players in the team as we look forward to the almost impossible task of winning the next six to recover the ground lost over Easter and to put us in the play-off mix.
North End started the game with two changes from the side beaten at Hillsborough on Friday with Chris Maxwell coming in for Declan Rudd and Greg Cunningham returning at left back in place of the unlucky Josh Earl.
North End had a few half chances in the opening half hour of the game with Derby quite content to counter attack and break quickly.
Ten minutes before the break North End were offered a gilt-edged chance to take the lead when Browne was fouled by Andre Wisdom in the inside-left position a couple of yards into the box.
The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot but this wasn`t to be Browny`s day and he pulled the spot kick wide of the left-hand post and North End`s best chance of the whole game had gone.
Callum Robinson then had a great chance but the ball went agonisingly wide and North End trooped off a little wearily having spurned a golden opportunity.
Just as at Sheffield on Friday I felt at the interval that North End could go on and win the game but the second half was less than 10 minutes old when the visitors scored what was to be the only goal of the game.
A free kick conceded on David Nugent saw Tom Lawrence hit a 25-yard shot past Maxwell and into the net.
From my poor angle it looked like the ‘keeper might have done better and manager Alex said post match that he didn`t expect his goalkeeper to be beaten from that distance.
Neil shuffled the pack and Louis Moult was brought on to provide some muscle up front. We had a couple of chances to get back into the game but a shot from Paul Huntington and latterly from Paul Gallagher both went sailing over the bar from good positions and North End`s chance had gone.
The end of season inquests were starting all around Deepdale before the players had left the pitch at the end and although it looks a tough task now it is certainly not time to throw the towel in.