Preston’s poor recent form continued on Saturday afternoon, losing 3-1 at home to Queens Park Rangers.
Defeats at West Bromwich Albion and Fulham were no great shame, but they had to be followed up by a strong home performance against a mid-table QPR side.
In the first half, it all looked good; Preston seemed dangerous and had control of the game, with Daniel Johnson converting from the penalty spot after Darnell Fisher had been brought down inside the box.
However, North End lost the plot in the second half. Mark Warburton switched his QPR side to a diamond midfield, and Preston just couldn’t cope – even after matching them up formation-wise.
Grant Hall brought the R’s level, taking advantage of a rudderless Preston display, but North End were given hope when Geoff Cameron was given his second yellow card, reducing the visitors to 10 men.
Preston should have kicked on from there, but lost control of the game as Ryan Manning and Eberechi Eze handed QPR an unexpected 3-1 victory at Deepdale.
North End are somehow still clinging on to sixth place in the Championship, but this team currently isn’t good enough for the playoffs – and the lack of a real striker is crippling Alex Neil.
Seani Maguire did fare well in terms of pressing and hit the woodwork twice, but Jayden Stockley didn’t have a single chance and David Nugent was an unused substitute. There was no real figure to hold the ball up and help Preston get away from their own box, and Stockley was dominated by QPR defenders when he came on.
In the QPR attack, they boasted Jordan Hugill; the man Preston sold to West Ham United in January 2018. As we wrote on Saturday, selling Hugill for a club-record fee wasn’t the issue; it was more that Neil hasn’t been a mobile, physical, pressing forward to replace him more than two years since he left.
In terms of goalscoring chances, Hugill wasn’t posing a huge threat on Saturday. Ben Davies and Patrick Bauer fared well against him, though it was again clear that he is quicker than people give him credit for as he posed concerns in behind on a couple of occasions.
Late on, Hugill came to life, holding the ball up brilliantly, buying time for his side, taking the pressure off and buying free kicks to see QPR over the line. That’s the sort of presence North End needed in the second half, and the 27-year-old showed what Preston are still missing.
After the game, Hugill took to Twitter to admit he loved playing at Deepdale again, praising the fans for giving him a warm reception 0 and it sparked responses from North End fans claiming they miss him whilst begging him to come back, believing he is better than what Preston have right now.
Better than any of our current players lad
— Dom (@dom_33) March 7, 2020
Miss you 💔 #pnefc
— James Shuttleworth (@jimshuttle) March 7, 2020
Still not replaced you Jordan and it'll be our downfall this season. Best of luck
— luke (@fortsandvodka) March 7, 2020
Miss you big time 🙁
— Goose (@twiteringgoose) March 7, 2020
Fancy coming back? it's been a disaster since you left
— Deano Carwin (@Deano48281051) March 7, 2020
We are begging for you…🙏🙏
— Andrew Dodwell (@AndyDodders) March 7, 2020
Miss him 😢😢 https://t.co/GO3nfyNuLs
— jen williams (@jenw85) March 7, 2020
Miss you at Deepdale Jordan, you never give up and play with real passion.. please come back 😂
— Ryan Wane (@rwane94) March 7, 2020