There weren’t many things to feel positive about on Wednesday night, as Preston lost yet again.
The 1-0 defeat to Derby County may have been decided by a piece of quality from Wayne Rooney, but there was a largely uninspiring performance n show from North End too.
Preston were pretty lifeless going forward, have now taken just one point in the last five games as the playoff dream begins to slip away from Alex Neil’s side.
Fans have been raging since Wednesday’s display; Neil is under pressure, changes have been called for, and one player continues to receive criticism that seems a little unwarranted.
Brad Potts hasn’t quite had the season many expected of him. The January 2019 signing from Barnsley made a big impact when he arrived, but a difficult pre-season set him back for the campaign.
Potts struggled to hit top form, and seemed to be seeking peak fitness. Fans have been on Potts’ back for most of the season, but the midfielder maybe deserves a little more praise than he receives.
He has often done an admirable job for the team; you look at games against the top sides in the division, and Potts is often brought in. Preston have played Leeds, West Bromwich Albion and Fulham twice each this season, and Potts has started five of them. Alex Neil clearly trusts him to do a job for the team, offering protection, athleticism and work rate in midfield.
Because some fans have decided they don’t rate Potts, his work rate is often overlooked. Other players are credited for their effort, but that rarely seems to be the case with Potts.
On Wednesday, Potts started against Derby. When the teamsheet was released, fans were baffled by Potts being included – but again, Neil wanted his legs in for a big game against a strong side.
The truth is that Potts was our best player on the day. He broke the lines admirably as a box-to-box midfielder, showing real forward thrust that has maybe been lacking in Alan Browne’s game of late.
The stats tell an interesting story. Potts completed five successful dribbles in the game, three more than any other North End player, showing that he was prepared to take men on and open up the game. Potts also had Preston’s only on target in the entire game, which came from him breaking forward and attempting a shot from range. He also had the highest pass completion percentage in the team at 93%, using the ball safely and effectively.
Yet still, there are messages on social media against Potts. Some suggest that he only looked good because everybody else was bad, or that showing effort still doesn’t make him good.
Potts offered more than many more popular Preston players, but his strong display didn’t fit into the narrative for some fans. With time to get himself fit, Potts looks more involved and fared well as a substitute against Cardiff City too.
Don’t be surprised if Potts features more regularly in the final games of the season – and having been one of the few impressive players in midweek, maybe he deserves the chance to prove some people wrong.