|Preston North End 4 v 0 Ipswich Town|
Friday, 19th April 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Ipswich Will Be a Tricky Game, Any Ipswich Fan Coming Deserves Credit - Notes for Preston North End
Thursday, 18th Apr 2019 10:15 by HarryFromBath
HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of our Good Friday game at Deepdale by delving into their forums.
“What on earth goes on towards the end of the season? We always have a wobble and switch off. I am fed up with this every year”, “The season has really fallen apart, that fizzle has fizzled”, “Once again another season of being let down, we will never see Premier League football at Deepdale.”
“This is classic North End, raise the hopes of fans and pull the rug from under their feet.”
“We have a tired, injury-bitten squad that has run its course for the season”, “The gas tank is empty, 360 minutes of running on fumes await”, “I can’t fault the effort despite our poor end to the season as injuries have ruined it. We will be stronger next season if we can strengthen and stay injury free.”
For many Lilywhites, the combination of a small squad playing high-intensity football week-in, week-out has taken a toll of injuries and weariness. “I have thought we looked jaded from the start lately. A season of the high-pressing football has caught up with the guys and is reflected by the injury list.”
“We are only good enough to be where we are at best. Apart from one or two we simply don’t have enough players to progress further. If you doubt that just look at the clubs coming down. One player also has to be sold so that we don’t make too big a loss. Sorry folks that’s the reality. Get used to it.”
“We just need to finish strongly. Momentum is a big deal.” Most fans see the campaign in a positive light given the club’s relative lack of financial strength in the division. “It’s amazing that we are in this position at all. Our achievements should not be forgotten and we can build on this for next season.”
“Excellent news”, “Well I for one am delighted, this is the best news we’ve had in ages”, “This is the best news we have probably had this season. We can build on squad and will be better next season with Alex Neil at the helm”, “We will be a force to be reckoned with next season with him in charge.”
The 37-year-old former Canaries boss took over at Deepdale in July 2017. Fans were delighted by the news at the start of the week that he signed a three-year contract. Press speculation had linked him with the vacant West Bromwich Albion job after Darren Moore left the Baggies on 9th March.
“Alex Neil has transformed the way we play and is developed our young talent. I love the guy and the new three-year contract made my day”, “I don't think it can be denied that the Neil situation was contributing towards our weak performances lately. Everybody’s minds were clearly distracted.”
“His approach is not a million miles away from that of Chris Wilder at Sheffield United. With one or two additions and omissions, we could be much closer on points in 12 months' time”, “He is steadily putting together a good playing squad. Hopefully he can add the missing links during the summer.”
“The football isn't great but he produces a team that is very competitive at this level, which is a big achievement for a club of our size”, “He inherited some good players but has squeezed a bit extra out of them. He needs to make sure he doesn't push things too far leading to another injury crisis.”
“He has been pushing the players hard physically. You have to do that to play the high pressing game that we have used well to dominate teams. He wants us to work harder than the opposition but you end up with more injuries and the players look knackered at the end of the season as we have seen.”
Formation and Tactics
“We have a team whose work ethic is second to none. They push their bodies to the absolute limit in virtually every game”, “What we have lacked lately is a sense of drive and urgency. Lose 10 per cent of your fitness and prowess and this league takes no prisoners. You can be very quickly worked out.”
“Where has our quick zippy football gone?! We have been so slick at times this season but we look jaded now. Or could it be that those who are having to play are starting when not 100 per cent fit because we have so many out injured?”, “There is little of note in terms of quality on the bench.”
The loss of three players to injuries has deprived the team of the urgency on which they rely. Winger Tom Barkhuizen, midfielder Brad Potts (both knee) and defender Andrew Hughes (hamstring) all play with an industry which typifies the Lilywhites’ approach. Their energy and drive have been missed.
“We have looked threatening when we have got the ball on the ground and played it with some purpose”, “It looks like the players have been told to keep the ball down and it has looked much better possession-wise”, “This is what we need to be doing, lumping it isn't doing us any good.”
Neil has preferred playing with a back four and three in central midfield but fans feel that it doesn’t work against teams who will sit back. “Playing 4-2-3-1 at home against teams that sit deep doesn’t work. So often the two sitting in front of defence have no forward passing option apart from a hoof.”
Neil made three changes for Saturday’s starting XI at West Brom (above) after the defeat at home to Leeds. Striker Jayden Stockley came in for Sean Maguire, midfielder Ryan Ledson for the suspended Ben Pearson, while winger Paul Gallagher, returning from injury, also replaced Callum Robinson.
Keeper Declan Rudd is seen as a safe option although he has struggled dealing with set pieces, while the partnership of centre-backs Ben Davies and Jordan Storey has strengthened a backline which had the worst goals-conceded record in the division earlier in the season.
“Unfortunately, Josh Earl just isn't good enough at this level.” Right-back Darnell Fisher has improved as the season has progressed whereas left-back Josh Earl has unnerved fans lately with some of his errors, including one very poor infield pass which gifted West Brom one of their four goals last Saturday.
“Top of our shopping list is a big ball holding midfielder who can pick a pass.” Neil has used his more advanced central midfielder to press and harass defences rather than operate as a playmaker. Many fans now believe they need a better deep-lying playmaker to cut out the habit of launching the ball.
“Some of our passing is downright shocking”, “A big strong ball-holding midfielder is required next season. Sell Daniel Johnson and Ben Pearson. Both are now watching games for different reasons.” Johnson is criticised for drifting out of games while Pearson’s disciplinary record has angered many.
“Longer term we need another hardworking quality central midfielder to help give the whole team impetus. That is the one major investment we need to make in the summer”, “We need to try and hold onto the ball a little more, pass it more simply and get players forward to support the strikers.”
“Our movement is diabolical. Time after time a defender or midfielder will surge forward only to pull up holding their hands out as if to say 'where's the movement?'”, “The whole midfield is awful and slow, and our forward line looks really powder-puff against the better defences in the division.”
Summer signing Ryan Ledson has been an effective sitting midfielder and he is seen as a long-term replacement for Pearson. It’s worth adding that with little now riding on the game, Alex Neil may play fringe youngsters like right-back or midfielder Joe Rafferty or winger Josh Ginnelly in the XI.
“Neil likes playing two wide men which at times baffles me as we often have nobody in the box who is likely to win a header when good crosses come in.” Lukas Nmecha and Callum Robinson are both typically lively widemen who create chances while also frustrating fans with their inconsistency.
“We have absolutely no presence at the front. We get the ball forward and it comes straight back under very little pressure.” Robinson and striker Sean Maguire are seen as lightweight compared to Louis Moult and Jayden Stockley, who have primarily been used as impact substitutes recently.
“Stockley and Moult are much more deserving of a start than Maguire.” Maguire is a mobile frontman who can create space with clever running but he has struggled in a lone-striker role. “Playing in the way we have been it is difficult to understand why we don't have Stockley or Moult up front.”
West Bromwich Albion 4 – 1 Preston
“Well that was shocking, our attacking play was non-existent”, “It was typical end-of-season form for North End, a good job the season was already over”, “In truth we didn’t play badly but everything that could have gone wrong has done. West Brom’s four goals were all handed to them on a plate.”
Dwight Gayle struck a hat-trick with goals on 27, 31 and 71 minutes, bracketing Jay Rodriguez’s strike on 43 to allow the Baggies to stroll to a comfortable win. Preston substitute Callum Robinson pulled a consolation goal back for the visitors in a defeat clouded by discussion around Alex Neil’s future.
“We dominated until and just after their first goal while the second one was a real sucker punch. The atmosphere went completely flat now and it was all about saving face”, “It was men against boys as the half went on. The players didn't lack effort. West Brom have just been far superior with the ball.”
Preston 0 – 2 Leeds
“See you next season folks. We were absolutely dire”, “Getting turned inside out by Leeds, what a rubbish way to end the season”, “We were just being taught a bit of a lesson and then it became a training session after the red card”, “We were already needing snookers. This result just cements it.”
Patrick Bamford won this game for the visitors with two second-half goals following the dismissal of Preston’s Ben Pearson on 49 for bringing him down when he was through on goal. His first was a 25-yard shot on 62 and he then headed in a right-wing cross from Mateusz Klich to seal victory on 76.
“We were beaten by a very good Leeds team tonight. We were lucky to be level at half-time. It could have been six or seven if Leeds had had their shooting boots on”, “I don't think I have seen a team move the ball so fast like that at Deepdale since we played Chelsea and Liverpool in the FA Cup.”
“Why on earth did we not start with Stockley or Moult?” Fans felt that playing Sean Maguire in the starting line-up (above) diminished their effectiveness as they had no out-ball to relieve the waves of relentless pressure coming from the visitors. “Leeds dominated the space between our midfielders.”
Preston 0 – 1 Sheffield United
“Just got back in from the game and yes, a hugely frustrating affair once again”, “There was no lack of effort from the lads but yet another neurotic performance in front of the majority of their fans”, “Another poor display to add the last five, I hope that it won’t be like this for our remaining games.”
“What a poor goal to give away.” David McGoldrick won this game for the Blades when he tapped in on 33 minutes after Preston keeper Declan Rudd had tipped John Egan’s header on to the crossbar. “So many things were irritating about today's performance but yet the team has so much potential.”
“Sheffield United were pressing us in our own half. When we did try to play it out from the back, we got caught out a few times giving the ball away in our own half so we resorted to playing the long ball”, “Playing Maguire up front on his own was never going to work against three centre halves. “
“Hoof, lump the ball forward and it comes straight back at us. Repeat ad nauseam.” Preston found it difficult to retain possession with Maguire struggling in the lone striker role (above) and this allowed the visitors to control the pattern of the game. “We were too slow and never looked like scoring.”
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Declan Rudd the only reason that the West Brom game wasn’t a 7-1 drubbing.” The 28-year-old ex-Norwich keeper “makes decent saves and shows good handling and communication skills”, “Some of his one-on-one saves have been very good. His anticipation and reading of through balls is superb.”
“Every team we play will put two or three players round Rudd on corners. If you watch videos of our games, he hardly comes off his line to command his area, and it makes us vulnerable at corners and set pieces”, “I would like us to sign a new keeper who will leave his line and be more commanding.”
“I love Darnell Fisher. I appreciate he had a shocking couple of months at the start of the season but he is very positive going forward.” The 25-year-old former Rotherham right-back “gets stuck in and plays with his usual commitment, but he still has poor moments in every game and gets caught out.”
“Fisher was terrible against Reading’s quick wingers last month. He got dragged all the way into their third for the first goal, when he had no chance of winning the ball”, “His time-wasting, diving and all of the other dark arts are very entertaining. If he was on the opposite team, I would loathe the guy.”
“Alas, Josh Earl, despite being totally committed and enthusiastic throughout, isn't a full-back and his lack of haste on and off the ball completely nullifies our left-sided threat all day long”, “At times he gets in good positions to play a decent forward ball, but second guesses himself and plays it safe.”
“There is a belting player in Earl but we need to be patient with him.” The 20-year-old youth product “gets caught in possession and gets ripped to shreds by good wingers”, “He will mature into a good player and may need a season on loan. There's no point pretending he's been good when he hasn't.”
“If we want to give the defence some more steel, the solution is Paul Huntington.” The 31-year-old ex-Yeovil centre-half “is increasingly error-prone and his performances have dropped this season”, “We play out from the back much more than punting it upfield when Huntington is not in the team.”
“Joe Rafferty hasn't had much of a chance, but hopefully he can get some game time towards the end of the season.” The 25-year-old right-back and January addition played over 200 games for Rochdale. “He has played well in cameos, no dramas, and he gets forward. He looks a tidy player.”
“Jordan Storey simply doesn't make mistakes and seems to always be in the right place at the right time.” The 21-year-old June purchase from Exeter “is playing this well now, how good he could be in the future?”, “He excels against big strikers but he still needs to move the ball more quickly for me.”
“Storey was disastrous on the ball at West Brom. He’s a brilliant prospect but he has a lot to learn. There is a difference between being good and comfortable on the ball and he can be jittery on the ball”, “Until the Davies and Storey partnership we had the worst defensive record in the division.”
“I love Davies and think he will be a top defender.” The 23-year-old youth product “is so composed it's a joke, taking the ball down on his thigh and chest with a player about two yards away”, “He’s a long way off the finished article, but he reads the game well and is good with the ball with his feet.”
Ben Davies v Diogo Jota (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
“Davies’s ability on the ball leads him to being comfortable playing at centre-half”, “He is terrific in the air, he reads the game beautifully and is very assured”, “At the moment he has too many lapses of concentration in his game for him to be considered a class act. These will pass with experience.”
“Paul Gallagher made no impact and wasn’t up to it at West Brom.” The 34-year-old ex-Leicester man was withdrawn with a shin injury on 42 minutes. “If you can't deliver as well as him, and not many can, then you have to be a bit more inventive rather than trying the same thing over again.”
“Without Gallagher there is no focus in the team”, “He matured into a deeper midfielder going into his thirties. He has tremendous technical ability and is an excellent set-piece taker as well”, “He can give us the consistent creative edge we need with his vision and passing ability but he’s out of sorts.”
“Daniel Johnson is simply not a deep-lying central midfielder.” The 26-year-old Villa youth product “doesn't do enough for me, he’s too inconsistent”, “People say he is our best player on the ball and our best attacking midfielder, but too often he’s way too ineffective even if he has got a goal in him.”
“I couldn’t think of a worse player to bring in against the likes of Leeds than Johnson and he was the predictable absolute liability, giving the first goal away with a typically poor pass straight into touch”, “He gives us forward movement with his passing from deep but he’s a luxury who needs moving on.”
“Ryan Ledson is worse on the ball than Johnson and he’s also much slower, but he recovers the ball well.” The 21-year-old ex-Oxford United man “has plenty bite and stops some very good opposition midfield dictating things”, “He was the only outfield player to show any real desire at West Brom.”
“Ledson played well against Sheffield United but we just surrendered without him against Leeds”, “He doesn't seem to have positional nous to play the holding role on a weekly basis and his passing can be poor, but he has the ingredients to pressurise opponents”, “He will be a good player in time.”
“Ben Pearson you idiot.” The 24-year-old one-time Manchester United youth product is suspended for Saturday’s game, but it’s worth mentioning how angered Lilywhites have become with his poor disciplinary record. “I can’t defend him any more, he’s just beyond help when it comes to discipline.”
“Alan Browne has much more stamina than a filibustering Tory.” The 23-year-old Republic of Ireland international “has developed into a very good player in the number 10 role. We would be 10 points worse off without his goals”, “Alex Neil rushed him back too soon from last month’s ankle injury.”
Forest's Nicklas Bendtner v Alan Browne
“Browne isn’t as good as most people make out and relies on his more creative or energetic midfield partners to become effective. Otherwise he gives the ball away or go missing”, “We need a creator playing the role and not him”, “He can't tackle, read the game or dictate play in a deep central role.”
Wingers and Wide Midfielders
“Josh Ginnelly has barely featured.” The 22-year-old January buy from Walsall “has seemingly been deemed nowhere near ready for this level of football”, “Give him a go. The worst that can happen is it gives him a taste of this level to help him get ready for next season and he’s also our player.”
“Callum Robinson wasn't at the races at all against Leeds. He doesn't look the same player we saw earlier in the season.” The 24-year-old ex-Aston Villa man was out from November to February with a hamstring injury. “He is just lacking that spritely edge and sharp arrowhead needed at this level.”
“Robinson has been well off the pace and second to most balls, but he edged closer to his proper self in the West Brom match. If he gets back to full match sharpness it would be terrific”, “He is showing some nice touches, but his set-piece deliveries have been poor and he looks well short of his best.”
“Lukas Nmecha has come on leaps and bounds recently.” The 20-year-old Manchester City loanee “runs his socks off, wins a lot of headers and isn't afraid to put his body on the line”, “He is our best player when he gets ball to his feet, and he looks dangerous when given a decent ball to work with.”
“Nmecha has been put out wide in order to try and utilise his pace”, “We don't have another player like him who turns defenders and runs at them but he gives away possession countless times”, “On his off-days, when he runs with the ball he goes too far and loses it with no vision for other players.”
“Louis Moult shows a strong, willing attitude, he always trying to get things going.” The 26-year-old ex-Motherwell man “is a trier but you can just tell this level is definitely a stretch too far for him. He shows fight and heart when coming on but his touch is poor and he constantly gives the ball away.”
Louis Moult v Adam Webster
“Please Mr Neil, can I beg for just one request? Don't play Moult again this season”, “He did nothing, as usual, other than gee up the crowd when coming on. Other than being a nice guy, I don’t get what people like about him so much. He has never looked comfortable against Championship defences.”
“It’s the last 20 minutes, is it time to unleash Jayden Stockley?” The 25-year-old January signing from Exeter “at least gives us something to aim at with crosses with decent chest downs and headers”, “It makes a huge difference having him up front, the balls forward stick and don’t come straight back.”
“Stockley has some physical strength. He makes his physical presence felt in defence and attack but his touch can let him down”, “He may be slower than we would like, but at least he knows where the net is”, “He looks good in the box but if he starts we need to have mobile runners very close to him.”
“We looked much more mobile with Maguire up front.” The 24-year-old ex-Cork City man “wants balls to behind to run on to and we don't play that way so why play him? I don't get it”, “Neil needs to recognise that him up top on his own against two enormous centre-backs is never going work.”
Sean Maguire celebrates with Callum Robinson
“Maguire almost looks non-league when he plays with his back to goal. I feel genuinely sorry for him as he can’t hold the ball up and we create nothing”, “If that's the way we intend to play, he needs far better service and support, or the ball is just not going to stick up front and we will create nothing.”
“Maguire for me is a number 10 who will attacking the ball from a knockdown by a centre-forward or a defender”, “We have been so lightweight up front at home most of the season but keep playing him as a target man”, “I hope we don’t see him as our central striker again. Play him on the wing.”
Lilywhites’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“By the looks of it, we’re not going to East Anglia next season. Ipswich are gone and Norwich are playing some lovely football”, “With Alex Neil’s future sorted, I expect a massive response from the players on Friday. Ipswich could be in for an absolute thrashing.”
“I'm glad I'm not an Ipswich supporter for so many reasons, but our squad are going to take their frustration out on something and it may just be them on Friday.”
“Fail to beat Ipswich and we will probably not win again this season.” The majority of Lilywhites are expecting to end their run of losses with a routine win or at the very least a draw on Friday (with Lukas Nmecha widely forecast to be the first goalscorer) but very few are taking the outcome for granted.
“Ipswich will be a tricky one. Any Ipswich fan that comes deserves credit”, “Most people expect us to turn over Wigan [who Preston play on Easter Monday] and Ipswich, but we know the Championship doesn't work like that”, “Every game is tough in this league. Ipswich at home will be no banker.”
The busiest Preston forum is the very friendly and knowledgeable PNE Online. Preston highlights are available on the Multimedia menu as well as Ipswich Town and for the whole of the Championship and other EFL leagues.
Photo: Action Images
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