Preston North End fell short in what was their most important game of the season so far. They cam away from London with no points after Millwall grabbed a clinical 2-0 victory over their play-off rivals.

The score didn’t come close to telling the whole story. Preston had the lions share of possession and on another day could have scored four or five goal, but it wasn’t to be. They head into their next two games needing wins.

Brady over Fernandez?

Alvaro Fernandez has been one of the stand out players this season. We’ve seen him progress, become accustomed to life in the Championship and really relish playing for the club. He’s one of our best attacking outlets, and showed that in the last game, providing the assist for Tom Cannon against Reading.

Going into the Millwall game, we had to go for it. It was never going to be a case of sitting back. Therefore we needed our most attacking and creative players on the pitch. That is Fernandez not Robbie Brady.

Brady has been hit and miss this season, but on Saturday he was most definitely miss. He was off the pace, and was a real weak link in the team. Millwall exploited him and he gave the ball away too many times.

Ryan Lowe said after the game that he didn’t want Fernandez to be ‘kicked up and down the pitch by Millwall’. I don’t think that would have been the case. They weren’t robust on anyone else, and even if it had happened we would have got some free kicks and seen some yellow cards dished out.

Fernandez has more than held his own this season, for a young player up against some tough opponents. The fans were singing his name some time before he came on on Saturday, and he instantly made an impact. He made numerous bursting runs forward and into the box. Laying one pass off for Liam Delap to apply a simple finish but it was blocked on the line.

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The Manchester United loanee cut a frustrated figure at the end as he clapped the fans before heading down the tunnel. Lowe can’t make that same mistake again this season.

Millwall v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship
Photo by Rob Newell – CameraSport via Getty Images

Parrott needs to stay on his feet

Troy Parrott had impressed alongside Cannon in the three wins prior to the Millwall game. After three goals in all competitions this season including a penalty, we’re not expecting him to find the net but to provide a good link up with the in form Cannon.

On Saturday he saw plenty of the ball, but was too often found looking for a foul rather than trying to keep play going. There was one occasion in the second half when the ball was played through to him in the area. He had space to shield the ball from the defender and get a shot in or drill it across the box.

Instead he fell to the ground after barely any contact from the Millwall defending. It wasn’t a foul and Parrott was rightly condemned for it by the Preston fans.

He’s good at holding up the ball and must learn that you should never look for a foul. If it happens it happens, but if you throw yourself to the ground for no reason then you’ve just lost the ball in a very good position.

Parrott will likely start the remaining four games of the season because the other option of Liam Delap has offered us very little so far. Less of that please Troy, we know there’s a good player in there.

Strange substitutions from Lowe

Ryan Lowe made the bold move of making four substitutions in the second half. Delap on for Parrott and Fernandez on for Brady made sense. Yet taking off Ben Whiteman for Ryan Ledson was very strange.

Preston were playing well and Whiteman is key to the slick passing and creation of chances. Ledson can do that too to a certain extent but it was weird to see Whiteman withdrawn so early. He was on a yellow but even still, we lost something when he went off.

Perhaps it showed how important Josh Onomah has become that he was kept on ahead of Whiteman. The former Fulham midfielder had another impressive game, coming very close to scoring an equaliser in the first half.

Bambo Diaby on for Liam Lindsay didn’t make much sense either. It left the defence disorganised when it came to the second goal. Many were in no man’s land when Zian Flemming was on hand to prod him the second goal.

As for Millwall’s defence Shaun Hutchinson and Jake Cooper were superb. They headed everything that came into their box giving our attackers no chance to get in the end of anything.

Millwall v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship
Photo by Rob Newell – CameraSport via Getty Images

0 wins from 9 against the top 15 in 2023

Despite the defeat we’re still in the mix but if we’re going to finish in the top six something has to change.

We are more than capable of beating the sides towards the bottom of the table. The recent wins have all been against the strugglers and that has helped put us in a decent position.

But since the turn of the year we have failed to beat any of the the teams placed 15th or above at the time of the game.

Burnley, Middlesbrough and Norwich City both beat us comfortably and we can’t afford to let that happen in our remaining games.

Swansea City are only six points behind us but are probably too far away to make to sneak into the play-off’s. We need to get something from that game in order to take it into the Blackburn Rovers match.

That’s a six pointer and it will be a special game at Deepdale on Saturday if it’s all on the line.

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