Five things we learned from Preston North End's 1-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday
Michael Hector's goal was enough to condemn 10-man Preston North End to defeat Hillsborough on Saturday.
Below we take a look at the main talking points.
PNE just don’t know how to solve the Ben Pearson problem
On his day Ben Pearson is the best player at the club, there’s no doubt about that. But they simply cannot keep him on the field enough. On this occasion a 26th-minute challenge on Marco Matias was deemed reckless by referee David Coote and the midfielder was on his way down the tunnel. The No.4 appears to win the ball with his right leg but he is off his feet and the follow through with his left catches the Wednesday man on the knee. Whether it was a red card or not, and that has been a matter of plenty of debate, it’s a challenge he doesn’t need to make. Pearson has already missed four games through suspension this season and this second sending off of the campaign means it will likely be a four-game ban this time around.
Alex Neil must dread coming to Hillsborough
In his pre-match press conference the PNE boss spoke of wanting to improve his rotten record at Hillsborough. In March North End were resounding beaten 4-1, that coming 12 months after seeing his Norwich side hammered 5-1. That particular defeat proved to be his penultimate game in charge of the Canaries. This time around he was to have no more luck and will rarely have been as frustrated as he saw things unravel out of his control. First there was Ben Pearson’s red card and then Louis Moult’s injury hit his plans further. A depleted North End chased the game valiantly but Neil had the unorthodox pairing of Graham Burke and Tom Barkhuizen leading the line which tells its own story.
Injury coming at the worst possible time for North End and Moult
It was good to see Louis Moult back in the PNE starting line-up after missing the win over Millwall. A hamstring problem meant it was touch and go as to whether he would start but the No.9 led the line in South Yorkshire. He put in a decent shift in the first half and would have looked to provide an outlet in the second. But his race was run less than two minutes into the second period, Moult pulling up with Alan Browne taking his place. As well as leaving his manager with even fewer options up top it must be frustrating for the man himself. The striker was really getting his PNE career going before picking up the injury in training. All involved will be hoping he isn’t on the sidelines for too long.
PNE’s preparation went out of the window
This was potentially the worst time to play Wednesday. All the preparation from Neil will have been done on facing a Jos Luhukay side only for the manager to be dismissed late on Friday. On the flip side caretaker Lee Bullen won’t have had a lot of time to get his ideas across to his players. He definitely ripped up the Dutchman’s plans though and turned to Keiren Westwood in goal after more than a year out, the ‘keeper having been frozen out under the previous regime. The atmosphere was certainly more buoyant at Hillsborough, the Wednesday fans having got their wish, but this remains a side lacking in confidence after a poor run of results. They weren’t scintillating but made their numerical advantage count in the second half, Declan Rudd PNE’s star man on the day.
Fisher shows signs of recovery
Tom Clarke’s illness meant Darnell Fisher was back at right back. A revelation in his first season at the club after signing from Rotherham, the former Celtic man has struggled this campaign, losing his place as the skipper was shoved from the centre to the right-hand side of the defence. At Hillsborough, Fisher was well Fisher. It was a typical Darnell display as he battled hard and won more than his fair share of free-kicks. In the second half he even stood up a cross that Tom Barkhuizen should have headed home to restore parity shortly after Wednesday got their noses in front. More of this Fisher will be a welcome boost for PNE.