Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images

Preston North End are rudderless on and off the pitch; Blackpool defeat is the final insult

This is the one that mattered most to Preston North End fans. Sadly, the 2-0 defeat to Blackpool felt like an inevitability rather than just bad luck.

Keshi Anderson and Gary Madine struck to give Blackpool a 2-0 win over Preston at Bloomfield Road.

It was yet another game in which Preston struggled to even lay a glove on their opponents. Just two shots on target is simply not good enough.

This wasn’t just any game though. This was one that meant so much to Preston fans; the first league game against Blackpool in more than a decade.

If there was ever a day to turn up, it was this. Yet much like in the Derby County game, built up to honour Trevor Hemmings, Preston fell absolutely flat.

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You can point the finger at Frankie McAvoy, and many have done. Preston look short of ideas on the pitch, have no noticeable style of play and a lack of attacking intent.

McAvoy came out fighting after the 2-1 win over Coventry City in midweek, but this is now just one win in nine. Sure, we’ve only lost twice in that run, but draws aren’t going to keep Preston up.

That we’re even talking about that in October says it all. The stench of relegation is growing stronger in the nostrils. North End are only six points off the play-offs and six points clear of the relegation zone, but are much, much closer to one than the other.

What makes this defeat really hurt is that many of us saw it coming. These are two teams moving in opposite directions.

You hate to big Blackpool up, but you also have to give credit where it’s due. They appointed a highly qualified coach in Neil Critchley, quickly built up a style of play, had the whole club pulling in the same direction and have been moving forward ever since.

Photo by Dave Howarth – CameraSport via Getty Images

Critchley is getting the best out of his squad. You could argue that, player for player, Preston’s squad is better than Blackpool.

But that isn’t clear right now. Preston look rudderless, Blackpool look well-drilled. Critchley is getting more out of journeymen like Richard Keogh and Madine than Preston are getting out of established Championship players.

Whilst Preston do have some Championship-calibre players performing way below expectations, you also have to look at the recruitment yet again.

Ben Davies still hasn’t really been replaced. You cannot convince anybody that Liam Lindsay is a Davies replacement.

This has been a recurring theme. It took years to replace Jordan Hugill, Greg Cunningham ended up replacing Greg Cunningham and Callum Robinson’s goals haven’t been replaced.

Just look at some of the permanent signings this year. Ched Evans is out, Cunningham looks way off it, Lindsay has struggled whenever he has played.

BRISTOL, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 11: Preston North End’s Ali McCann applauds the fans at the final whistle during the Sky Bet Championship match between Bristol City and Preston North End at Ashton Gate on September 11, 2021 in Bristol, England. (Photo by Ian Cook – CameraSport via Getty Images)

The most damning stat is that only once have Preston started a Championship game this season with a ‘new’ face from the summer.

Daniel Iversen and Sepp van den Berg returned on loan, but the only ‘new’ starter was Ali McCann at Queens Park Rangers. He didn’t even make it until half time due to injury.

Preston look and feel like a club just trying to get from game to game, hoping for the best.

Izzy Brown and Connor Wickham were cheap punts that always came with the risk of injuries. Nobody is surprised that they’re now on the treatment table.

That’s no slight on them, but having gone to that well once with Brown, why do it again with Wickham? It again smacks of hoping for the best rather than going out and actually identifying targets to bolster the starting XI.

Jamie Thomas isn’t registered for the Championship, Josh Murphy hasn’t started a game for the club and Matthew Olosunde has been out for three months with an injury that seemingly always seems to be two weeks away from being resolved.

Photo by Dave Howarth – CameraSport via Getty Images

We had six years to put real distance between ourselves and Blackpool. That’s how long North End had been at least one division above Blackpool.

Terrible recruitment for years has now resulted in Preston losing to Blackpool without even making them sweat.

The problems at this club go away beyond the head coach at this point. Preston brought in a recruitment analyst in James Beet, but how many signings we’ve made in recent times has he actually played a role in?

Did Beet really want Evans or Cunningham? Did he really want cash paid for Lindsay? Did he really want injury-prone outcasts like Brown and Wickham?

Photo by Ian Cook – CameraSport via Getty Images

North End aren’t moving with the times. They’re going through the motions off the pitch, and that’s translating onto the pitch too.

The club are going nowhere with this current setup and Saturday’s embarrassing defeat was grimly predictable.

No Preston fan will forget this day; the day that North End meekly lost to their bitter rivals. McAvoy, Peter Ridsdale, whoever it may be – they cannot brush over this.

We warned of a major backlash if Preston didn’t come up with a result against Blackpool and here we are. This is the culmination of bad decisions for years and fans know it.

Preston face Blackpool again in March, but winning that won’t right this wrong.

North End need to get real, realise that this is a club moving backwards and come up with answers soon. Otherwise, these disgruntled fans will have to live with slipping well behind Lancashire rivals for years to come.

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