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Preston post-match notebook: Finally a performance the fans could get behind

After the abhorrent display last weekend against Blackpool the feeling around Deepdale before the cup tie with Liverpool had an eerie feel about it ahead of Halloween.

However North End soon gave the fans something to shout about as they limited Liverpool and looked to counter with chances of their own. So much so that from five minutes into the game up until they scored the Liverpool supporters remained silent.

By the end Preston were unlucky to be on the end of a 2-0 defeat.



Team selection divides opinion

Such a tie in front of a sold out Deepdale would usually have the place bouncing ahead of kick off but many were anticipating a heavy defeat. The lineup didn’t do much to quash those fears with Frankie McAvoy making changes with one eye clearly on the Luton Town game.

The Liverpool game won’t determine his job, whereas the Luton game could be his last. I understand that, but personally I would always go into these games with a near full strength side. These opportunities don’t come along often and a first ever quarter final place in the League Cup would be a great achievement for this club. As it turned out the quality on the bench could have made the difference in the first half.

The league is important and three points are needed on Saturday but a midweek game and a small chance of an upset wouldn’t exactly burn out some of our key players.

Numerous standout performances

It was a chance for the backup players to put in a display that would give them a chance of breaking into the side for the league games. Joe Rafferty has barely featured this season but put in an impressive display on the right hand side. He kept Konstantinos Tsimikas quiet and allowed Sepp van den Berg to excel in a central defensive role. Perhaps something for Frankie to consider going forward.

Overall the defence held their own and their positional play was spot on. Liverpool couldn’t find a way through and it was only when Neco Williams was pushed forward that they were able to penetrate the back line.

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McCann, Ledson and Potts was an interesting midfield

McAvoy clearly wanted a strong midfield that was going to battle with Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp had gone with a lightweight and young midfield and they couldn’t get in the game. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain struggled whilst Curtis Jones was unable to produce much. McCann, Ledson and Potts closed down everything, winning the ball back on numerous occasions and trying to move it forward.

It worked well with the pace of Sean Maguire and Tom Barkhuizen up front. Ali McCann particularly impressed after a shaky first few minutes. From then on he was class and put the ball on the plate for Maguire to open the scoring. He made some great tackles and should find himself in the team on Saturday.

The physicality of Brad Potts and Ryan Ledson worked and both showed the sort of desire which should have been on display against Blackpool. Alan Browne will find it’s tough to get back into the team with Daniel Johnson and Ben Whiteman also to consider.

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How didn’t it go in?

When Barkhuizen snuck up and dispossessed Joe Gomez, the Town End were instantly up on their feet. They smelled blood. Ali McCann burst forward and Seani Maguire was in acres of space. When the ball was played to him we were just waiting for the net to bulge. Adrian somehow kept it out but the ball still fell kindly to Ryan Ledson. The former Everton player struck it well but straight into Neco Williams’ face. Finally Brad Potts snatched the final opportunity and the whole of Deepdale stood in disbelief and how that hadn’t gone in.

It was three golden opportunities. Preston have struggled to create three chances at all in most games this season. Yet there had just been three in a matter of seconds against the 2020 Premier League champions.

Something to build on

Players are always going to raise their game for opposition like Liverpool. They want to impress, show they can do it against the best and turn up for the cameras. It’s natural you’ll give that little bit extra. It shouldn’t be the case but you can understand why it happens. It was a committed performance but it meant Preston did the basics very, very well.

That should now be the standard for every game. You have to be on it for the full 90 minutes against Liverpool and it should be the same for Luton. It’s the basics that serve you well. We didn’t really make any mistakes on Wednesday. There was no sloppiness because you know you’d instantly get punished.

We stuck to a strict gameplan and for once you could tell we actually followed one. Plenty to build on as we go forward into some important Championship games. We’ll see what Frankie has learnt.

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