Preston North End v Queens Park Rangers - Sky Bet Championship
Photo by Mick Walker - CameraSport via Getty Images

Preston post-match notebook: A comfortable win over the Hoops as loan stars shine again

Time is running out with just five games left of the season before Preston North End’s loan stars; Sepp van den Berg, Daniel Iversen and Cameron Archer return to their parent clubs.

The latter two were in fine form again as North End secured their second victory at Deepdale within a week, beating Queens Park Rangers 2-1.

In truth there could have been a lot more goals at both ends though.

Iversen has yet another great game

The 2-1 result doesn’t tell the full story at all. In the first half, Queens Park Rangers had some very good chances only to be denied time and time again by Daniel Iversen.

The porous Preston defence allowed QPR to ease through but they just couldn’t find a way past the Dane. He makes himself so big in the goal, and just when you’re expecting the ball to hit the back of the net he finds a way of keeping it out.

On Saturday there were a few saves for the cameras perhaps, but maybe that is doing him a disservice. A few shots were straight at him, but he managed to turn them into acrobatic saves.

A late penalty was harsh on Iversen who deserved a clean sheet. The defence will hugely miss the Leicester City loanee next season if he is to play elsewhere and they won’t be able to afford making as many mistakes as they have done in some games this season.

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Archer finds the target again

Fresh from cementing himself in Preston North End folklore, Cameron Archer was back at it again. The striker has a knack of making it seem like he has all the time in the world when he has the ball in the box. He dummied, shimmied, even gave himself more space before unleashing a powerful left-footed strike which took a deflection before ending up in the back of the net.

Seven goals in 13 starts now since arriving in January. Archer is definitely one of the best mid-season acquisitions Preston have made for some time.

You can see in the way the rest of the team play how valued the 20-year-old is. Daniel Johnson in particular looks to find him every time he brings the ball forward. DJ and the rest of the team know that if they can get the ball into Archer’s feet, and Emil Riis’s to be fair, they will look to get a shot off on goal or release the other one into a better position.

Archer is enjoying his loan spell away from Aston Villa. It could hardly have gone any better for him but Steven Gerrard has said he wants him back for pre-season to assess him.

It would be nice to see him get a go in the top flight for Villa, but even if Gerrard decides he could do with another loan spell, it will be at a higher level than the Championship. It bodes well for future link ups between Villa and Preston though. Gerrard and Lowe will no doubt be discussing other players that can follow Archer’s path in the future.

A strong 45 minutes from Maguire but is it too late?

Within moments of Riis edging Preston in front just before half-time, he had to come off with what looked like a hamstring injury.

A huge shame for him, but it gave Seani Maguire a rare chance to play and link up with Archer. Maguire did well, the partnership with Archer was neat, and they created a few chances between them. Maguire could have had two goals himself with some decent one-on-one opportunities but the Irishman is lacking in confidence when it comes to the final finish.

He looked sharp though and it was a chance for Ryan Lowe to see him in action with Maguire having only played 62 minutes since starting Lowe’s first game in charge against Barnsley in December. Strikers will be on the shopping list in the summer (when aren’t they?) and with Archer’s loan spell expiring it will leave us with just Maguire, Riis and Ched Evans.

Only Riis can regularly find the net, and offers may come in for the other two. Maguire may be offered first team football elsewhere and Evans may be able to find a longer contract in League One.

For Maguire, just 12 league goals over the last four seasons doesn’t paint a great picture. He scored more in his first season (10 in 2017-18) than he has in his last three combined (9). We know he offers more than that.

Maguire is good when we have a lead to protect, he’ll hold the ball up, win free-kicks and carry on hassling defenders. But ultimately more goals are needed, especially when there aren’t a huge list of players stepping up to take on that mantle.

PRESTON, ENGLAND – APRIL 09:Preston North End’s Daniel Iversen during the Sky Bet Championship match between Preston North End and Queens Park Rangers at Deepdale on April 9, 2022 in Preston, England. (Photo by Mick Walker – CameraSport via Getty Images)

Does Lowe give more chances now to the players whose deals are running out?

Ryan Lowe has been at the club five months now, and will have seen plenty in training to make his mind up on many. Some have had injury problems though, and Saturday saw Josh Murphy get a rare run-out.

Murphy arrived on loan from Cardiff City at the start of the season, but Frankie McAvoy couldn’t fit him into his system and then he had a long-term injury. The boy has talent;Cardiff paid £12 million for him when they were in the Premier League. Murphy showed glimpses on Saturday, and likes to take on the defender and attack the box. We don’t currently possess too many player like that.

But the wing-back role is a funny one because you need an all rounder. That’s why Brad Potts has excelled in that role. Personally I want to see attacking players out wide. Pacey players who can chip in with a few goals as well, and can be crucial off the bench when chasing a game. Wing-back wouldn’t be Murphy’s preferred position, but he has limited choice in this formation.

His contract expires at Cardiff in the summer so he is available on a free. Is he worth a gamble? He would have to take a drop in wages but he may be settled at this club rather than taking a chance elsewhwere.

Scott Sinclair sees his contract run out soon as well. Although regularly appearing on the bench under Lowe he rarely makes it onto the pitch. Same with Joe Rafferty. Will Lowe start them in a couple of the remaining fixtures or has he already made his mind up? There’s also contract decisions to be made over Izzy Brown and Tom Barkhuizen but both remain on the sidelines. Lowe could go down a different route for the last few games though…

Mikey O’Neill makes his debut for PNE at the age of 17

Not long ago Ryan Lowe stated a youth player will ‘definitely’ get a chance in the first team before the end of the season and he stuck to his words. Mikey O’Neill looked the likely candidate after an impressive season at youth level. With Brad Potts missing from the squad on Saturday, O’Neill was handed a place on the bench, and he made his professional debut in the last few minutes of the game.

Capable of playing as a number 10 or number 9, the tall 17-year-old has been involved in first team squads before and has clearly impressed Lowe.

Perhaps the tail-end of the season will represent more opportunities for the younger players. Joe Rodwell-Grant made his professional debut at the start of the season with a very brief cameo against Swansea City and others will be looking to get a chance.

Jacob Holland-Wilkinson, Lewis Leigh and Noah Mawene are just some of the players that have stood out in the past. It’s always good to see a young player come through the ranks, and it’s something the fans will get right behind.

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