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Rotherham 2-1 Preston: Alex Neil missed an opportunity

Preston’s Christmas period ended with another defeat this evening, losing 2-1 away at Rotherham United.

After squandering a host of first-half chances, North End fell behind when Will Vaulks smashed home a free kick on the stroke of half time.

Michael Smith added a second for the Millers before Lukas Nmecha pulled one back for Preston, but it ended in defeat.

After also losing to Sheffield Wednesday and Hull City before taking a point at home to Aston Villa, one point from a possible 12 means it has been a dismal festive period for North End.

Of course, with the club’s dreadful injury situation right now, few went into these four games expecting much.

Yet this evening, there has to be a feeling that Alex Neil sold himself short with his substitutions – or lack thereof – against Rotherham.

Neil made just one substitution, bringing on Calum Woods for left back Andrew Hughes after he, of course, picked up an injury.

But that was it. One change, and it was enforced through injury. Many of these players have played throughout Christmas due to the injury concerns, and yet played another 90 minutes today.

After Nmecha pulled one back, it’s pretty shocking that Neil didn’t throw another forward on, even if they’re young and inexperienced. After all, he thrust Josh Earl into first-team football last season.

Ethan Walker is just 16, and having been thrown on at 1-1 against Villa late in the day, what would North End stand to lose from giving him 10-15 minutes at Rotherham?

Connor Simpson was also on the bench, and yes he maybe isn’t ready for Championship football just yet, but he’s big, strong, good in the air and has at least been playing regularly in non-league football.

Either player could have just given that Rotherham defence something else to think about late on, something they may not have prepared for.

Instead, North End’s tired legs saw out the game and couldn’t muster another goal, whilst two strikers sat on the bench.

I love Alex Neil, I think he’s doing admirably with a bad hand right now.

But at 2-1 down, failing to take a risk by bringing on one of his teenage strikers feels like a missed opportunity.

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