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Preston North End post-match notebook: PNE fail to rise to the occasion on a poignant day

18,092 fans turned up to Deepdale for the 3pm kick off against Derby County. Unfortunately, Preston North End didn’t turn up till the 70th minute.

The tributes to Trevor Hemmings before the game were emotional and poignant, and after a video displaying messages from past and present players, Alan Browne placed his flat cap behind the goal at the Alan Kelly Town End. It was to prove to be the highlight of the day.

There were no goals to be seen at either end despite Derby County’s dominance. It was a terrible performance from North End and it really does make you wonder if they actually have any tactics at all. There’s been two weeks to prepare for this game, but there is zero attacking intent.

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Derby should have been out of sight

After the first 45 minutes Derby County had 71% of the possession, six corners to Preston’s zero and The Rams had eight shots on goal too. They controlled the game with ease. Our 29% possession was mainly tackles and giving the ball back to them. Derby played quite well and seemed to have acred of space to play. There perhaps lacked a clinical forward which wasn’t helped by Sam Baldock going off injured in the first half.

I would be fascinated to know what instructions Frankie McAvoy gives the team before a game. It really does seem as if they just hope for the best. Maybe the odd goal from set pieces, but there is a real lack of attacking intent.

Where would we be without Iversen?

The signing of Daniel Iversen in the summer could be the difference between this team staying up or being relegated. He’s a superb goalkeeper. His kicking needs to improve but his shot stopping is up their with the very best in this league. You almost feel sorry for him having such a poor team in front of him.

The Dane had already made some important saves before late on in the first half, when Preston allowed Festy Ebosele to carry the ball from his own half, unchallenged, into the area before Iversen parried his shot away for a corner. Understandably he berated the abject ‘defence’ in front of him just as the Town End did as well.

Derby were far superior in the first 45 minutes and North End needed to change things.

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Sinclair sparked some urgency

Frankie McAvoy’s post match comments touched on the atrocious first half. He said he considered changes at half time but felt the eleven players out there needed to go back out and improve. An interesting tactic, and one that didn’t work unsurprisingly.

Scott Sinclair came on in the 58th and showed what can happen if you play with a player who likes to attack and run at the defence. It took until the 70th minute for the side to get going and that was down to the former Celtic player. He closed down Ryan Allsop who was forced into a quick and sloppy pass giving the call straight back to us. It led to a chance and The Lilywhites finally grew into the game. That burst of pace from Sinclair was the first time Preston had actively tried to stamp their mark on the game.

Change of formation almost paid off

Not many are fans of the formation favoured by Frankie. There’s too much of a reliance on the wing-backs who look uncomfortable the further up the pitch they go. The three in midfield on Saturday failed to get involved in the game and it passed them by.

With the last throw of the dice McAvoy made his third and final substitution and I don’t think anyone saw it coming. Josh Murphy came on to replace Jordan Storey. We changed to a 4-2-3-1. Murphy and Sinclair were either side of Emil Riis and suddenly we looked more of a threat.

Sinclair and Murphy wanted the ball as much as possible so they could run towards the box. No one else on the pitch was achieving that and Riis had a poor game by his recent standards. There was more of a structure to the side without leaving gaps at the back. It seemed a very attacking formation for us but it’s one we used most of the time under Alex Neil.

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Murphy is due a start

The on loan Cardiff City forward has yet to start a game for us. He’s been limited to just 66 minutes in the league for us. He came here to play games so he must be frustrated. It’s not as if there’s been anyone playing outstanding to keep him out of the team. It was good to see Tom Barkhuizen back in the side. We need to see more of him, Murphy and Sinclair if we’re going to start moving up the table. These players know how to attack but they don’t really fit into the current formation. The sooner McAvoy realises that the better.

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