John Roper's PNE Fans' Panel Verdict '“ players were running on empty
This was quite frankly an awful display by PNE and one that will not inspire any fan who suffered this 90 minutes to think that better things lie ahead.
It just looked a game to far for some of the team and in all honesty it probably was but nothing should be taken away from the visitors who came with a strategy and a gameplan and executed it almost to perfection. North End were one down in the first five minutes and it took us another 50 to level the game at 1-1. From that moment on, though, there only ever looked like being one winner of this third round FA Cup tie and that was not Alex Neil’s men. North End lost too many 50/50 balls in midfield and lumped the ball up in the air more in this game than they have done in the last 10. PNE made two changes from the team that started at Rotherham on Tuesday afternoon, with Michael Crowe making his debut in goal and Darnell Fisher replacing Tom Clarke at right-back. With only five minutes on the clock Doncaster were ahead when a ball from the right wing found Marquis who headed home giving Crowe no chance. North End pushed forward a little bit more but seemed to have very little penetration. Preston had a few half-chances but the nearest we came to levelling the score was when Andrew Hughes hit the bottom of the post on the stroke of half-time but it was Donny who went in one up and probably deservedly so. Alex Neil brought Alan Browne on after the break and he at least added a bit of spirit into a drab midfield. North End were level after 55 minutes when a Gallagher corner from the left found Hughes at the back post and the left-back made no mistake in heading home. Surely North End would go on and win the game but it was the visitors who were galvanised by the equaliser and started to put some pressure on a shaky Preston defence. Doncaster went ahead again with 20 minutes to go when a goalmouth scramble saw Anderson score from close range. North End hustled and harried but the visitors won the game when Wilks made the most of a mix-up in the North End defence and calmly slotted home. This is the fourth game in five that North End have lost and the losing is now becoming a habit again. Fortunately for Alex Neil he will probably have eight different players to select from next week including those that were named on the bench today. I’m not an advocate of saying we can now concentrate on the league but perhaps this defeat will close the door on a generally very poor festive programme and the team can be freshened up big time in the next few weeks. Without naming names, I saw half-a-dozen players running on empty at the end but I don’t suppose that is a real excuse for such an inept performance. Let’s hope the new boys and the lads who are fit again provide some inspiration for a tough set of league games coming up.