Five things we learned from Preston North End's 3-0 defeat at Leeds United

Preston's concerning start to the Championship season continued as they were well beaten by Leeds at Elland Road on Tuesday night.

Wednesday, 19th September 2018, 8:49 am
Updated Wednesday, 19th September 2018, 9:52 am
Daniel Johnson battles for the ball

The early league leaders needed a late Tyler Roberts double to make sure of the points but the Lilywhites were well beaten on the night.

Below we look at some of the main talking points.

First away league goal looks a long way away

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Daniel Johnson battles for the ball

PNE are still without a goal or a point on the road this season after this defeat at Elland Road. While Leeds had a bucket load of chances to make sure of three points, North End toiled in the final third. They started brightly in the opening 10 minutes, pressing high with Callum Robinson seeing a shot saved, but as soon as Leeds got going the visitors weren’t a force of any note in the final third. For a period at 1-0 in the second half North End had more of the ball but the Championship leaders were more than comfortable. Robinson did see a goal chalked off for offside but it felt a matter of when, not if, Leeds would make sure of the points and that they did through Tyler Roberts’ double.

Losing becomes a habit

As much as this is early in the season and there are key players to come back, North End are without a win since the opening day. They sit second from bottom of the early Championship table and the longer that goes on the harder it will be to drag themselves towards the right end of the table. With ‘easier’ opportunities to pick up points having come and gone Elland Road was not somewhere PNE wanted to go needing a win to get themselves going. That proved to be the case, the late goals only bringing a fairer reflection to the scoreline.

Natural sitting midfielder a huge miss

Alan Browne’s return from a calf injury saw Neil revert to 4-2-3-1 with the Irishman the deepest of the midfielders. He was given the job usually assigned to Ben Pearson with the No.4 and fellow tackler Ryan Ledson banned. Browne’s attributes are different and while he put in a typically workmanlike shift he does not fill that role in front of the back four in the same way as Pearson or Ledson, even if we haven’t seen much of the latter. With Daniel Johnson next to him they couldn’t keep Leeds at bay, putting more pressure on what is a fragile defence. More on that…

Where has the mean backline gone?

The simple fact here is that North End are far too easy to score against, whether it be against Leeds at the top of the league or Reading at the bottom. Last season they were able to nick games here and there and pick up valuable points as the defence stood firm, meaning a lack of goals was less of an issue. This year though the two are combining and that is not a good mix, not at all. Neil has spoken about struggling to find the balance between defence and attack this season and it needs to return fast. The reality is Leeds should have won by more missing a catalogue of one-on-one opportunities.

Goalkeeper is a big issue for Alex Neil

Many thought the PNE boss would make a change after the international break and he didn’t. Neil indicated at the fans’ forum on Monday that he wants to try and stick with his ‘keeper for a run of games after chopping and changing last season and he has done that. But another Declan Rudd error for the first goal here will leave Chris Maxwell feeling his time should be now. The Welshman was always going to play in the League Cup tie with Middlesbrough next Tuesday but he could well be between the sticks when PNE head to Sheffield United on Saturday, heading to Bramall Lane no easy task when you are in the situation North End are in.