Preston North End returned to winning ways with a much needed win at Deepdale. Michael Carrick tasted defeat in his first game as Middlesbrough manager as North End triumphed with a 2-1 victory.
A late Jordan Storey goal edged the game for Ryan Lowe’s side but in truth a draw would have probably been a fair result.
A change in formation from Lowe
Finally Ryan Lowe decided to alter the formation and try something new. 3-5-2 just hasn’t worked for us this season. The stability in defence it gave us has gone, and it just left us without any creativity. On Saturday he started with a back four in a 4-3-3 formation.
Brad Potts started at right-back but was still very attacking with non-stop runs up and down that flank all afternoon. He put in an incredible shift, but he is not a defender and has had to massively adapt his role since Lowe’s arrival at the club.
It meant we had the usual three in midfield but with another three players ahead of them. This led to us getting more men forward, and therefore having more options in the attacking third. Ben Woodburn and Robbie Brady played out wide, with Woodburn initially on the left before they switched for the second half. Brady had a poor game for me, with no end product but Woodburn seems to be improving all the time.
Both goals ended up coming from set pieces though, and the one that was mysteriously disallowed also came from a set-piece. There is plenty of room for improvement in open play. There is still square pegs in round holes though, as we ended the game with Riis on the right and Alan Browne on the left with Ched Evans down the middle.
A first win at home after going behind
Only once before during this season had Preston managed to get something out of the game after conceding the first goal at Deepdale. That game was against Burnley when Jordan Storey rescued a point for The Lilywhites. The three home defeats we have tasted at home all came without us even registering a goal. Birmingham, Sheffield United and Stoke City all had the game wrapped up with relative ease.
Such is Preston’s inability to score many goals this season, when we do go behind it feels like a tremendous uphill battle to get back into the match. Middlesbrough took the lead early on when Preston failed to defend a corner. After Robbie Brady for some reason ducked under the ball, it was easy for Chuba Akpom to knock the ball over the line.
It didn’t knock Preston though and they managed to get back in the game through a thunderous strike from Emil Riis. The game could still have gone either way, but the last minute winner was a huge boost for the fans and players.
Relief for the home fans
It’s been a dire season at Deepdale so far. We didn’t see a goal until the fifth home game against Deepdale and even then it didn’t hit the back of the net, in that aforementioned Burnley game. Only one other goal had been scored by Preston before Saturday. That was the winner against West Bromwich Albion from Emil Riis. One win and two goals in eight games; it’s safe to say not many were looking forward to the game against Middlesbrough, as it had become a chore to go one the game.
However we were treated to a win and two goals! Whilst it wasn’t the prettiest of games, a win is a win, and it completely changes the outlook of a weekend. With another game on Tuesday, let’s hope there is even more goals on the way, and from other areas of the team as well. So far at Deepdale it is two for Riis and two for Storey.
Fernandez on the left wing could become an option
If we play with a flat back four it restricts the options for our left-sided players. Greg Cunningham and Andrew Hughes were both left on the bench on Saturday, and whilst both have had injuries or knocks recently, they have had solid seasons so far. They are the ones who are likely to miss out when switching from five at the back to four. Jordan Storey and Liam Lindsay are the obvious centre-back options.
Brady was average on the left wing but remains our most natural option there, unless Fernandez is pushed up. He played there for a bit on Saturday when Hughes was brought on, and he is an attacking player. He loves to drive forward and try and get into the area. If it means Hughes and Fernandez both play then Brady may have to sit out.