Five things we learned from from Preston North End's FA Cup exit at the hands of League One Doncaster Rovers
Preston North End put in a dismal display as they were knocked out of the FA Cup by League One Doncaster Rovers on Sunday.
The visitors ran out 3-1 winners at Deepdale in the third round tie on a day where Michael Crowe was handed his Lilywhites debut.
Below we take a look back at the main talking points.
North End needed to be at the top of their game - and weren’t
Yes this was Championship against League One but this was a side from the third tier who arrived at Deepdale in fine form. Grant McCann’s side had lost just one of their last 11 and were scoring goals for fun. They were unchanged but PNE only made two alterations themselves. The first half was flat from the hosts though as Doncaster moved the ball around nicely. John Marquis' goal from a header, a problem in recent weeks, gave the visitors a deserved lead at the break. Alan Browne was introduced at the interval and North End did pull level through Andrew Hughes’ goal but it remained a really below-par display as Alex Neil’s side failed to kick on after equalising. Sean Maguire's introduction wasn't even enough to lift things with the second and third goals ones that the Lilywhites will not want to watch back as their FA Cup adventure ended at the first hurdle this season.
PNE had to take a look at Michael Crowe
A strong PNE side showed just two changes from the defeat at Rotherham, one of those in goal. It was a big day for Michael Crowe as not only was it his North End debut but it was also the shot-stopper’s first senior game. Prior to this his only first-team experience had come during non-league loan spells while on Ipswich’s books. But with Chris Maxwell seemingly on his way out, North End needed to take a look at the man who arrived as their number three in the summer. Crowe looked shaky early on, something that was to be expected, but his kicking was particularly hit and miss. Things unravelled in the second half though, the second and third goals not reflecting well on him. The ‘keeper didn’t get a strong enough hand on Andy Butler’s header for the second goal before Tom Anderson scored. The third then saw him caught in no man’s land with Mallik Wilks rounding him to complete the victory.
Squad will look very strong, very soon however
Next week at Swansea Alex Neil is going to have some big decisions to make. The returns of Sean Maguire, Alan Browne, Brandon Barker and Josh Earl gave the North End bench a healthier look that is has done for some time with no academy players needed to supplement numbers. This will be just the start for the PNE boss. Next week he will have cup tied new signings Brad Potts, Jayden Stockley and Josh Ginnelly at his disposal and a certain Ben Pearson returning from suspension. Things are looking up.
Burke may have had his chance
The return of several key men and some incoming new faces means some of the fringe men who have had a run in the side will find their place under threat. Graham Burke certainly falls into that category, injuries having given the Irishman a run in the side off the front. For the second time in that run he was subbed at half-time on Sunday. Burke’s performances have been okay and after a long spell out of the side he has been asked to churn out games. He hasn’t influenced matches as he would have hoped though and it now remains to be seen where he is in the pecking order.
FA Cup still matters - but it needs some help
There were a few puzzled looks around Deepdale as everyone settled in for a 2pm kick-off on a Sunday. It was one of many third round ties this weekend shifted for international TV coverage. The reality was that with kick-offs scattered from Friday night to Monday evening, with several slots on Saturday and Sunday, traditionally one of the biggest weekends in the football calendar became something of a mess. At least both teams took this one seriously, PNE made just the two changes while Doncaster, went unchanged after an impressive recent run at the sharp end of League One.