Preston clinched all three points in their final home game of the season this afternoon, beating Birmingham City 2-0 at Deepdale.
Patrick Bauer’s first-half finish from Paul Gallagher’s corner put North End in front, with the German bagging his third goal of the season.
It took a while, but Preston did make it two late on as Brad Potts broke into the box and fired a superb left-footed strike into the bottom corner of the net.
Sadly, Preston’s playoff hopes are over. Cardiff City beat Middlesbrough today, meaning North End can no longer mathematically break into the top six.
North End went top of the table in November but have slipped all the way out of the top six. It was always going to be difficult to stay there, but fans are naturally frustrated.
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It’s not difficult to see where the problems lie; Preston just lack the firepower to challenge teams like Fulham, Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City.
Preston’s top-scoring striker was Jayden Stockley, with four league goals. Seani Maguire hit four, David Nugent one and Louis Moult one, though the latter has been out since August.
Midfielder Daniel Johnson has been the leading goalscorer with 12, winger Tom Barkhuizen hit nine, whilst playmaker Paul Gallagher managed six. Josh Harrop chipped in with five, whilst Alan Browne is also in the four-goal club.
It’s sadly just not enough. 10 goals across four strikers isn’t good enough for a top six finish, and you can’t expect much when your top-scoring striker sits on four goals.
This evening, boss Neil has tackled the subject. He admitted that Preston just don’t have enough goals up front, as today’s strikes from a defender and a midfielder showed. Neil believes Preston ‘have to find a solution to that’, in comments that many will believe are aimed towards owner Trevor Hemmings.
Hemmings admirably keeps the club afloat, but it’s clear that – even in these difficult times – North End need better quality up front if they’re to truly challenge at the top next season.