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Preston post-match notebook: Sinclair anonymous as Neil's substitutions must be questioned

Preston fell to defeat at Millwall on Tuesday night, losing 2-1 at The Den in what was a pretty dire game.

Ched Evans smashed home the opener with a stunning volley, before Scott Malone responded with a screamer of his own.

Mason Bennett won it for the Lions late on, profiting from indecision in the Preston back line.

Here are some of the key talking points emerging from Tuesday’s defeat…

Neil’s substitutions come too late

This has been a problem for us in the past, and it came up again last night.

Preston looked shattered in the second half. 10 of the starting XI had taken on a huge workload in the previous two games; Jayson Molumby was the only change, coming in for Alan Browne.

There was no impetus or energy in the second half, which allowed Millwall to control the game. Neil threw on Tom Barkhuizen before the hour mark, but then waited until the 79th minute to bring on Daniel Johnson. Emil Riis came on in the 88th minute and touched the ball just once.

By the time Riis came on, Preston were behind and chasing the game. Being a little more proactive could have really helped North End here, rather than just meandering through the second half with tired legs.

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Sinclair frustration

There’s no doubting that Scott Sinclair has quality; he’s probably Preston’s most clinical player and can certainly make something out of nothing. We’ve seen that plenty of times in the past.

However, when Sinclair is off it, he is really off it. He offered virtually nothing against Millwall. No shots, no dribbles, no chances created. In 79 minutes on the pitch, Sinclair touched the ball just 20 times.

It’s probably a case of 50/50 here, that Preston need to do more to get Sinclair into the game, and Sinclair himself needs to get more involved. Nights like this make people question whether he is suitable to start as regularly as he does.

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Evans proving some doubters wrong

When rumours emerged that Preston would be signing Ched Evans, there was understandably a real divide in the fanbase.

Parking the off-field matters for a second, Evans hadn’t exactly lit up League One earlier this season, and bringing him in until the end of the season at the age of 32 seemed like a move of desperation.

We weren’t fans of the move at all, but Evans is proving us and many others wrong on the pitch. His stunning goal was his third strike in a Preston shirt, but this was certainly the best of the lot, smashing a left footed volley into the net.

He didn’t get much else out of the Millwall defence, but the quality is there. Off-field matters will continue to follow Evans around, and people can decide for themselves what they think about that, but on the pitch, the Welshman is playing himself into a longer-term deal at Deepdale.

A rare error from Iversen

Daniel Iversen has been superb since arriving from Leicester City, but this is a night he will want to forget.

The Dane was having a decent enough night before Ryan Woods sent a long ball forward. Iversen thought about coming out, stayed at home, allowed Mason Bennett to get in and head the ball over him and into the net.

Iversen’s indecision cost him, and it’s a rare error from him. He’s been excellent throughout his time at Preston, and this one error won’t deter us from suggesting that he should be a top target for the summer window – he just needs to put it behind him and grow from here.

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Rowett’s run continues

Last year, we highlighted that Preston had failed to win in seven games against Gary Rowett’s teams, stretching back to his spells with Birmingham City, Derby County and Stoke City.

That run became eight earlier this season with a 2-0 home defeat to Millwall, and it’s now nine after last night’s defeat, extending the drought.

Rowett just seems to have Preston’s number; often more physical than North End, his Lions side were the better team last night and deserved to win the game, leaving Alex Neil and co to try and find a way to beat him one and for all.

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