Sean Gregan's exclusive column: Preston result was disappointing but these are early days

Although Alex Neil won't have liked Preston losing at Swansea, he doesn't strike me as a manager who will be panicking about it.

Sunday, 12th August 2018, 5:46 pm
Updated Monday, 13th August 2018, 11:41 am
Preston North End's Alan Browne on the attack

Last season he came across as a manager who didn’t get too upbeat with a win and too low by a defeat.

By all accounts, North End’s display at the Liberty Stadium contrasted sharply between the first half and the second half.

In the first they weren’t at the races but they controlled much of the second half and with more clinical finishing would have got a point.

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This was only the second game of the season and all teams are still getting their match sharpness.

You can play all the games you want in pre-season but they are either against teams lower down who you tend to beat or a team higher up when you spend most of the game chasing the ball.

So it always takes a few matches of the season for players to find their level, when I played it was five or six games before I felt I was properly up and running.

Neil will analyse the loss at Swansea – both good and bad points – run through them with the players and then move on to focus on the Morecambe game in the cup on Tuesday and then Stoke’s visit to Deepdale next week.

That will be a big game, the Potters another team to have come down from the Premier League just like Swansea did.

If North End can get a good result, what happened at Swansea can be put to the back of the mind.

In the run-up to the end of the transfer window, PNE did two pieces of incoming business in bringing in two lads from Manchester City.

The arrivals of Brandon Barker and Lukas Nmecha generated a lot of excitement and this will be a season in which they will be looking to get first-team experience to help further their careers.

Nmecha is a couple of years younger and seems to be one who City have high hopes for.

City aren’t the worse club in the world to loan players from and form a decent kind of relationship are they?

At the moment they are the big force in English football and have a lot of young players coming through their academy.

It’s strange to think that 20 years ago, they were in what is League One now.

We had a few great tussles with them, I remember Gary Parkinson scoring from the penalty spot in a 1-0 win at Maine Road on a Monday.

Two or three years later, Jonathan Macken scored an absolute wonder goal against City in a 2-1 win at Deepdale.

That goal was to probably earn Jon his big-money move to City.

They are the defending Premier League champions and I can see them winning it again this season – for me, the big race will be the one for second place.

I think Liverpool will be their main challengers as they had a good squad and have strengthened it well in the summer.

When it became clear they needed a new keeper, they went straight out and got one without any fuss – they were decisive.