|Preston North End 3 v 1 Leeds United|
Tuesday, 10th April 2018 Kick-off 19:45
Dispiriting second half allows Preston to take the points
Wednesday, 11th Apr 2018 17:07 by Tim Whelan
At half-time we looked like getting a good result from this game, but after the break our defensive frailties were all to apparent as Preston North End came from behind to run out 3-1 winners.
There was one enforced change to the starting line-up as Anita came in for the Berardi for another go at being a makeshift left-back, with Dallas continuing on the right. I would have swapped them over, so Anita could at least play on his preferred side of the field, but what do I know? Even more curious was the appearance of Grot on the right side of midfield. I know that Alioski has his critics, but surely he’d be a better option in that position, or even Sacko.
Leeds took 3,550 fans to this game, and even though we didn’t manage to complete sell our allocation (the whole of the Bill Shankly kop) we still managed to create most of the atmosphere in a fairly sparse crowd of 14,188. Was it just me, or was the stand to our left unfinished? It’s been there several years now, but it’s still got some big gaps at the top where there should be another row of executive boxes, or something.
Preston made a lively start to the game, and created the first chance as the ball was played across the edge of the box to the unmarked Gallagher. A deflection sent his shot dipping towards the far corner, but Peacock-Farrell got across quickly to punch clear before Barkhuizen could get his head to the ball.
Their next chance came when Phillips gave possession away in midfield, then missed when he tried to bring Browne down. Browne was able to play Barkhuizen in but thankfully he could send his shot over the bar. So when we took the lead in the 13th minute it was slightly against the run of play.
A corner was only cleared as far as Phillips just outside the box. He did well to skip past a defender and send a low ball across the face of goal, where Roofe was on hand to knock it into the roof of the net.
With our confidence boosted by this goal we began to have more of the possession, but the hosts came close to an equaliser as a corner was nodded on to the unmarked Maguire, but BPF was on hand to tip his header over the bar. And as the game flowed from end to end we produced a couple of decent chances of our own.
Ekuban beat a defender with a neat turn and slipped it to Hernanzez, whose fierce shot was heading for the corner before Rudd got down to tip it round the post. Then the Ghanaian had an opportunity of his own when Phillips intercepted on the halfway line and set him free. Ekuban beat a defender and sent in a left foot shot from the edge of the box, but once again Rudd got down to smother the danger.
Between these two chances Preston went close when Bodin cut inside Anita, and his curling shot came back off the post. But despite that I thought we had played well for most of the first half and I was reasonably confident that we could hold on to claim all three points. But all that was to change in the first seven minutes of the second half as Preston managed to turn their deficit into a 2-1 lead.
The first came when Bodin went into the box past Anita clumsy challenge, before catching the Dutchman’s trailing leg and falling over. Before the kick Peacock-Farrell started frantically waving to the bench. Perhaps he was seeking guidance as to which way to dive, but you would think that was something that would have been sorted out before the start. In the end he did go the right way, but Gallagher was still able to beat him, with his technique of walking away before quickly turning round and running in to smash the ball right into the corner.
The second game when Jansson picked up an injury as he headed clear from a corner, and was still on the floor when the ball was played back into the box, leaving Maguire unchallenged as he headed into the net. This was to provoke a row between the two managers after the game, as the Heck thought the game should have been stopped, with Alex Neil disagreeing as Jansson hadn’t been fouled.
But it was a head injury, so by rights the ref should have blown up, and he would have had time to do so, as there was a good 10 seconds before Gallagher crossed the ball back into the area. Jansson was forced to leave the field and Diaz took his place, leaving us with an entire makeshift back four, all of them either inexperienced or playing out of position.
Preston were close to taking the game even further out of our grasp, when Cunningham forced BPF into another decent save. And at last the home fans were begging to wake up and make some noise, now that they were winning.
At the other end there was a bit of a set-to after O’Connor collided with Rudd as the latter collected a corner, and was surrounded by angry Preston players. But he was rescued by Grot, who showed that he might be useless as a right winger, but he’s a handy man to have on your side in a brawl, using his physique to shove the Preston players out of the way.
Useful as it was, that was the big Dutchman’s last contribution, as he and Roofe went off to be replaced by Saiz and Alioski in the 68th. minute. I thought it was a bit early to be using all three subs, leaving nothing to cover any injuries in the remaining time, but thankfully we managed to get through to the end without any more problems of that sort.
Saiz was busy as we tried to come forward in search of an equaliser, but as usual he often lost possession as he tried to beat too many players, instead of passing to a colleague. But he did created one chance with a ball to Hernandez, whose shot was beaten out by Rudd. Then Vieira sent in fierce shot from outside the box that was heading for the top corner, before Rudd managed to turn it round the post.
But we were finally killed off by the third Preston goal in the 82nd minute. Dallas dispossessed on the halfway line and was slow to get back and defend, and when the cross came in Browne got in front of O’Corner to divert the ball into the far corner. This caused a few Leeds fans to make an early exit, but the rest of us remained to chant “Orta out!”, the scapegoat for our disintegrating season.
We kept plugging away, but even seven minutes of injury time weren’t enough for us to get back into the game, before the ref finally put us out of our misery with the final whistle. The result means we have now dropped to 14th in the table and have suffered the indignity of being below Norwich, thanks to this defeat at the hands of their former manager.
Today I’ve seen a few fans on messageboards calling for the Heck to be dismissed, as we’ve still only won two games while he’s been in charge. I wouldn’t go that far, and he’ll probably get at least the start of next season to turn things around, but we’ve got to play a lot better than this.
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