Preston fell to defeat this afternoon, losing 1-0 at home to Cardiff City in a disappointing display.
North End fell to a second half strike from Sheyi Ojo, as he slammed home on the counter attack to give the Bluebirds all three points.
Preston couldn’t get back into the game, and have now lost all three home league games 1-0 this season, which is becoming an increasingly frustrating run.
Here are some of they key talking points from North End’s latest defeat…
Patrick Bauer’s shaky start
Patrick Bauer’s first season at Preston was a strong one, forming a superb partnership with ben Davies in the heart of defence. Yet since lockdown, Bauer hasn’t quite looked himself, and that continued today.
The German was arguably at fault for Cardiff’s winner, over-committing to a challenge with Kieffer Moore that he was unlikely to win. The Bluebirds countered and scored, and Bauer’s shaky play is becoming a rather concerning pattern in the early stages of the season.
Full backs limiting home potency
This is now Preston’s third straight home league game without a goal, and whilst a new striker has been signed in Emil Riis, there have to be other ways to get North End firing in games where have to break down stubborn opposition.
Joe Rafferty is a solid, hard-working player, but doesn’t offer enough dynamism going forward. There have been multiple occasions now of Alan Browne waiting and waiting for Rafferty to get forward, slowing down North End’s play and ultimately making us easier to defend against.
Preston miss Darnell Fisher when isn’t available, Andrew Hughes offers a little more on the left, but he still isn’t Greg Cunningham. It’s a surprise that Preston didn’t push for more quality in the full back spots having looked at Max Lowe in 2019, and it may be an area to improve if Preston want to open up the game at home.
Where is Josh Harrop?
Another issue related to the creativity was the absence of Josh Harrop, who wasn’t even in the squad for today’s game and remarkably hasn’t played a minute of Championship football this season.
The 24-year-old signed a new three-year deal over the summer, but not only can’t get into the lineup, but now isn’t even on the bench. Despite his creativity and spark in the final third, Harrop was sat twiddling his thumbs this afternoon as Preston served up another goalless showing.
Add in that Daniel Johnson was an unused substitute and this was a day where Preston’s creative talents were nowhere to be seen. Maybe Alex Neil felt that going with ‘runners’ such as Alan Browne and Brad Potts was the way to go having both impressed against Brentford, but it just didn’t work – and Harrop will be desperate for a chance to shine soon having looked bright in pre-season and against Derby County last month.
Riis makes an impact
If there is one positive to take from today’s game, it’s the impact of Emil Riis. Preston’s new £1.2million striker came on as a substitute for Seani Maguire with 25 minutes to play, and showed why North End have brought him in.
He showed his pace when running the channels, showed nice close control and touches to avoid defenders, linked up play well and was the only player to really trouble Sean Morrison by putting himself about and showing encouraging movement.
One minor criticism would be that he was sometimes drift too deep or too wide when Preston needed him in the middle, but there was enough to suggest that he could be a real threat moving forward.
Post-international break form continues
A year ago, we wrote a piece about Preston following a 1-0 defeat at Reading. At that time, Preston had won just two of 10 games after an international break under Alex Neil, and that hasn’t got any better.
Defeat at Derby County in November 2019 made it two wins in 11, and Preston also lost on the opening day of the season to Swansea City directly after an international period. Add in today’s defeat, and that’s two wins in 13 games after international breaks.
Maybe it’s bad luck, maybe it’s a case of a team losing momentum and struggling to recapture it immediately. Either way, it’s a bizarre oddity of Neil’s time at Deepdale and something that has been going on for more than three years now.