Five things we learned from Preston North End's opening-day win over QPR
Preston North End got the new Championship season up and running with a 1-0 over QPR at Deepdale on Saturday.
ALSO READ: Kicking off with a win sets us up nicely says Preston North End's Ben DaviesAlan Browne’s header five minutes into the second half was enough to condemn Steve McClaren to defeat in his first game in charge of the Rs.
Without Sean Maguire and Billy Bodin and with plenty of selection decisions to be made by Alex Neil there were plenty of talking points at Deepdale.
There’s nothing wrong with grinding out a result...especially on the opening day
This wasn’t a vintage performance from PNE but it was most certainly job done. They started brightly in the final third but couldn’t turn promising play into a series of chances and real pressure on QPR. The irony wasn’t lost on Alex Neil post-match that after such a good spell with the ball it was a direct free-kick and a looping header that put North End decisively in front. Neil’s men then had to battle and be streetwise at times to get over the line, Declan Rudd producing one stunning save late on to make sure of the three points. It was all about just getting off to a winning start, no matter how that came.
Visiting teams will show hosts plenty of respect at Deepdale
QPR’s performance might be a sign of things to come. Especially when under the cosh early on, McClaren was happy for his side to sit in with two banks of four. ‘Come and break us down’ was the call and it is not something that always comes easily to PNE. The former England boss spoke post-match about PNE being ‘wily’ and knowing how to win. With some pre-season predictions having North End firmly in the play-offs, don’t be surprised if more teams come to Deepdale prepared to shut up shop to a degree. McClaren was frustrated his side didn’t play with more freedom but there is a growing appreciation of Preston as an established and dangerous Championship outfit.
Moult has a role to play…
The man tasked with getting the goals on Saturday was Louis Moult, the former Motherwell man profiting to a degree from Sean Maguire’s misfortune. Plenty of fans are still to be convinced about the new No.9 who had a stop-start few months after joining in January. Now is his time to shine though. Make no mistake, Moult knows where the back of the net is, but he is a totally different proposition to Maguire and on the striking spectrum is closer to Jordan Hugill. There’s plenty of endeavour and some of his link-up play really caught the eye. Described as a ‘penalty box’ striker by his manager, Moult thrives more on service from out wide which wasn’t as forthcoming. Despite plenty of skepticism, he certainly has a role to play and will only grow with more games.
...but more firepower is needed
Moult was the only out-and-out striker in the match-day squad though. A target man has always been on the agenda with Neil again underlining post-match that he is hoping the club are busy between now and Thursday’s deadline for permanent deals. What will be interesting to see is how PNE try to plug the gap left by injuries to Maguire and Bodin. Large investment seems unlikely given that the Irishman is back in two months and Bodin should play before the season is out. Reinforcements at the sharp end of the field are needed though, loans able to be done until the end of the month.
Elsewhere things look good
Looking around the rest of the squad, Neil looks pretty well stocked. In goal Declan Rudd got the nod over Chris Maxwell while in front of him Tom Clarke and Ben Davies edged out Paul Huntington. In defence there was also a debut for Andrew Hughes ahead of Josh Earl. The midfield could have lined up in several different ways and did as the match progressed. Alan Browne and Ben Pearson started as the midfield two but there were appearances from both Ryan Ledson and Paul Gallagher with Daniel Johnson missing out injured. Competition for places is certainly going to be fierce as the weeks and months pass.