The joyous scenes after the 1-0 victory over arch rivals Blackpool were less than 3 weeks ago. But they are now a distant memory as Preston North End were easily rolled over by a Blackburn Rovers side who had the game won by the 12th minute.
Three out of the four Lancashire derbies this season have been nothing short of embarrassing. Rovers were well worth their 4-1 victory on Monday night and in truth could have had a few more.
Not acceptable at any stage of the season
Rovers still had an outside chance of getting into the top six before the game while Preston were just playing for local bragging rights. But from very early on it was obvious which team was up for the battle. Preston were lacklustre and you could have been forgiven for thinking they thought this game was an 8pm kick off rather than 7:30pm.
The Championship season is 46 games long. No matter what position you are in, you play till the end. The fans who buy season tickets pay for all 23 home games. They can’t just pay until the play-offs are out of reach or relegation is no longer a threat.
Too many times in this league the same players in this squad switch off come April time. Perhaps they thought the job was done with the win over Blackpool. Well the win over the Tangerines will be remembered this season just as much as that defeat on Monday night.
Will it be that bad to see any of these players leave?
The squad is full of averageness. Three of our best players are on loan. Sepp van den Berg, Daniel Iversen and Cameron Archer are unlikely to return next season.
Others are liked simply due to their long careers at the club and some memorable moments in the past. Alan Browne has been below average since the 2018/19 season when he was superb and scored and scored 12 goals. He’s scored 11 in the three seasons since and his captaincy comes under question far too often.
Daniel Johnson has also been a great servant to the club. DJ and Browne are two of our highest earners and we were worried about losing them in the past. But too many games they are nowhere to be seen in midfield battles. The game can pass them by and unfortunately Ben Whiteman can fall into that category as well.
Lots of fans have been calling for Ali McCann to start more games but I’m not sure I can see Ryan Lowe dropping any of the current midfield trio. Personally I think McCann and Ryan Ledson would put in more consistent performances than those three and wouldn’t allow other teams to play through the middle of the park with such ease.
Andrew Hughes and Emil Riis are two players who have shown they can be assets this season but I wouldn’t be too sad to see other players leave.
If Maguire was the answer what was the question?
Two and a half years ago Preston found themselves in a similar position. Two goals down at home to Blackburn and Alex Neil rolled the dice and brought on Jayden Stockley. He played fantastically and gave PNE a plan B. They went on to come back and win the game 3-2.
At half time on Monday, Lowe rolled the dice and brought on Sean Maguire for Greg Cunningham who had actually shown the only bit of desire and good play in the first half when he burst through to assist Alan Browne.
Maguire was never going to be the answer though. Nine goals in his last 97 Championship appearances. He gives his all but unfortunately it’s not good enough. Playing in a number 10 role didn’t suit him either. He regularly offered himself for the ball but couldn’t do much with it. He’ll do well to find himself at a top half League One side next season.
Emil Riis was poor and doesn’t look interested
Now Emil Riis has of course had a great season and done far better than anyone would have predicted in his second campaign with us. I dread to think where we would be without his goals. But is he enjoying it under Ryan Lowe? He’s been dropped a few times and quite often doesn’t seem ‘up for it’.
Riis was at fault for Blackburn’s third goal, choosing not to jump and battle with Darragh Lenihan who headed into the net uncontested. He loves to get a shot away and it can be lethal at times but if he isn’t given an opportunity he is rarely involved.
He’s scored five goals under Ryan Lowe as opposed to 12 under Frankie McAvoy this season. The potential is there of course. Riis is still only 23 but Lowe has to get the best out of him, because it hasn’t been seen enough in the second half of the season.
Does Lowe have the solutions to this mess?
Lowe came in and said the right things and did a great job in getting fans to start enjoying supporting the club again. There were some good away performances and the fans were right back on side after a rocky few seasons. It’s been very poor of late though, Blackpool and Queens Park Rangers games aside.
Thrashings from Luton Town, Fulham and now Rovers have exposed really big problems with this squad. Lowe can see that but how quickly can he fix them?
Lowe will stick with this formation but we are yet to see attacking football. There are issues in every area of the pitch. The bench is very rarely good enough to alter the outcome of any game. Many players at the club don’t even fit into the system.
A huge clear out is needed but then it will be very hard if a raft of new players come in. It will take time for them to gel and with a limited transfer budget unlikely to be added to with any substantial player sales, Lowe will have his work cut out.