Preston North End fans returned to Deepdale on Saturday for the first time since March 2020. You could sense the excitement, and relief in the air that we were returning to some normality.
The fan zone was full of eager fans ahead of kick off and once inside the stadium plenty enjoyed ‘Sweet Caroline’ blaring out over the speakers.
Paul Gallagher received an emotional special tribute ahead of the game after hanging up his boots at the end of last season. The atmosphere was a timely reminder of what we have missed.
After 10 minutes of the game everything went downhill, and it was a reminder of how poor of a situation North End find themselves in.
A nicely worked goal for Riis
Emil Riis was one of seven players who played in front of Preston fans for the first time since signing with the club (if you include Greg Cunningham in that too).
It was great to see him get his first of the season early on in the game. Tom Barkhuizen made the most of his space on the right flank to play a ball to the back post for Riis to stab home. It will have been a great moment for the Dane but unfortunately it was to be Preston’s best attacking moment of the game after just eight minutes.
Rudd’s concussion injury shouldn’t have happened and Iversen has worst game for Preston
Declan Rudd returned to the side after a lengthy lay-off last season with Daniel Iversen having to settle for a place on the bench just days after re-signing.
Rudd was called into action early on and had to come out of his area to head the ball out of danger. He collided with a Hull City player and looked to have injured his neck at first. However the linesman had flagged for offside but only after Rudd had made the intervention. Such are the rules these days they wait until the offside player touches the ball.
Rudd did initially play on but was clearly still suffering as after 13 minutes, so Iversen replaced him as a concussion substitute – but unfortunately didn’t look like the great ‘keeper we had witnessed on our screens last season.
He made one save from the five shots he faced. He couldn’t do much for the first goal as Jordan Storey and Tom Barkhuizen left too much space in between them for Keane Lewis-Potter to take advantage of. The second goal took a couple of defections before finding the corner of the net.
After that the defence looked tired and abject. Iversen was punching everything when catches were an option. Storey let Josh Magennis nip in front of him for the third. He could have done better for the last goal as well which came about after another Iversen punch. Overall the defence was pretty poor throughout.
Midfield need to perform and they didn’t
You could argue the centre of midfield is the strongest area of the Preston squad. It certainly has a lot of depth.
Yet captain Alan Browne looked off the pace by his standards. He still made his way all around the pitch but made some tired passes and even missed the ball at one stage when he could have played Barkhuizen through. Is that down to a poor pre-season?
Ben Whiteman didn’t add much and Ryan Ledson struggled to stamp his usual authority on the game. Daniel Johnson added a little bit when he was introduced but by then we were clutching at straws.
Half-time subs led to players not knowing their roles
Frankie McAvoy made two substitutions at half time and they caught many by surprise. Sepp van den Berg replaces Greg Cunningham which saw Alan Browne initially move to right-wing back and Barkhuizen pushed further forward. Brad Potts also replaced Emil Riis which was a very strange move. Browne, Barkhuizen and Potts didn’t have positions to stick to and were roaming around the pitch in the second half.
For the first 10 minutes it worked, and Barkhuizen had two decent chances including a curling effort which was reminiscent of his goal against Blackburn Rovers a couple of seasons ago. After that it was a bit of a mess. There was no attacking plan and Hull dealt with any sort of pressure with ease.
Playing with wing-backs is always difficult. You want them to push on but then it leaves a gap at the back and Hull exploited that numerous times. If they’re not getting forward you’re then limited to what you can do. Ched Evans put a shift in and held the ball up well but then had very little support in attacking areas. Barky is clearly better in an attacking position then a defensive one but he wasn’t allowed the space after our goal to hurt The Tigers.
A tough season ahead
This looks set to be Preston’s toughest season in the Championship since returning to the level in 2015. There has been more solidity and quality in past seasons. There is a lot to work on this time round.
The game took a similar pattern to the last one in front of fans at Deepdale; a 3-1 defeat to a Jordan Hugill inspired Queens Park Rangers. However at that time Preston occupied a play-off spot. Much has changed since then, namely some huge players have left the club and have been adequately replaced if at all.
There is work to be done in the transfer window and that will include some outgoings too. I know there needs to be more quality in this team, you, the reader know it. Frankie McAvoy most probably knows it but do Peter Ridsdale and Trevor Hemmings?