Preston slipped to just a second home league defeat of the season today, as Reading won 2-0 at Deepdale.

After strong away draws at Cardiff City and Leeds United, North End returned to Deepdale hoping for three points. Reading were in strong form heading into the game, and their recent record against Preston is so strong, so this wasn’t an easy game despite our great home form.

North End were slow and sloppy in the first half, and fell 2-0 down as John Swift and Lucas Joao scored inside the first 20 minutes, leaving Preston with a mountain that they just couldn’t climb.

Preston North End manager Alex Neil. (Photo by Kevin Barnes – CameraSport via Getty Images)


Sure, Preston went close in the second half, but it was a pretty toothless display. After the game, boss Alex Neil spoke to the club’s official website, and highlighted how North End had around 20 shots at goal – 21 to be exact – but couldn’t score that all-important goal, and you can’t expect to take points if you don’t score.

“I think the game’s decided on goals, isn’t it? If we get the first goal, they have to come out and make it a game and then it leaves more spaces for us to exploit. They get the goal, they sit in and want to counter even more and we’ve really got to force the issue,” said Neil. “Having said that, we had, what, 20 shots at goal? And numerous very good opportunities – I thought we’d scored before they got the first goal and that would have really changed the game,” he added.

Neil’s frustration at the goalless display sums up North End’s biggest hurdle to a playoff place; a lack of firepower.

The early-season clinical edge has gone from North End of late. Preston were taking chances at a sensational rate earlier in the season, but whilst that was great to watch, it came with the caveat that the productivity would eventually tail off – as it now has.

Sean Maguire of Preston North End reacts after missing a chance. (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)

Preston have scored just five times in the last nine games. Wasted chances at Cardiff and Leeds meant North End went home with a point in each rather than three, and that’s sadly the difference between a really threatening Championship side and a team who are too hit and miss.

The January transfer window gives Preston a chance to address these woes, but quality, clinical attackers are tough to find in Preston’s budget. That will limit North End’s options in the market, but having failed to truly solve the issues in the summer, another window can’t go by without major attacking reinforcements.

Callum Robinson hasn’t truly been replaced on the left flank, Andre Green has barley been seen, Seani Maguire blows hot and cold and we don’t really know his best position, we’re nearly in January and we don’t know who Neil’s first-choice striker is, and Billy Bodin’s flashes of quality aren’t as frequent as his moments of wastefulness right now.

Hopefully, these issues are addressed in January. If they’re not, Preston will struggle to make it into the playoffs.

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