The mystery of Tom Bayliss’ continued absence over the last two seasons is something that has confused and frustrated North End fans.
Preston paid a considerable fee to sign the midfielder from Coventry in the summer of 2019. Just 20 at the time, it was thought he would be a long-term replacement for Paul Gallagher.
However, since his arrival, he has barely played for the club and sometimes doesn’t even make the matchday squad.
He made just one substitute appearance in the Championship last season, and Saturday was just his second start in the league this season. To think Preston forked out what was reported as close to their record transfer fee for him, it’s incredible at how little he has been used. Not even allowed to leave on a loan deal anywhere as well, the player’s development has been stunted.
His only other start in the league this season came against Nottingham Forest too, on the 2nd January. He does of course have a lot of competition in the middle of the park, and wasn’t helped with the January arrivals of Ben Whiteman and Jayson Molumby.
After two very late substitute appearances in the previous two games, Frankie McAvoy handed the 22-year-old a start in the last game of the season at Forest.
Bayliss lined up alongside Alan Browne and player of the year Ryan Ledson in the midfield. The first half passed most of the team by, but after the break Bayliss got hold of the ball and carried Preston up the pitch.
He made some great late bursts into the box; something we used to see from Alan Browne in the past. Bayliss was rewarded with those runs with his first Preston North End goal. Scott Sinclair broke free after a lovely dummy from Ched Evans, and whipped in a ball which Bayliss diverted in; albeit with his hand, but he got away with it. They all count though, and it will give Bayliss a huge boost to end this campaign with a goal.
After his goal, you could tell he had a bit more confidence and wanted to be on the ball even more. His deep cross led to the second goal after Ched Evans knocked it back for Liam Lindsay to head in.
Bayliss will hope whoever gets the permanent managerial job in the summer will give him more of an opportunity next season. It’s a competitive position in the team, but he’s definitely deserved more than just the 255 minutes he’s had in the league this term – which works out to less than three full games.