Preston North End 1 - West Bromwich Albion 1
I’m afraid this was another disappointing one.
Did we do enough to win it? Probably not. Preston didn’t deserve the points either but it was another poor quality game. Even if we’re threatening or looking the stronger team, we are never in control. It’s a real concern.
I was disappointed in the starting 11. Robinson has to be in it. We’re not good enough to rotate him and I think he probably has to play up top because he’s the closest we’ve got to a prolific striker.
First half was a drab affair. Preston played more Valball than us with inferior quality. We did try and pass it sometimes but clearly we haven’t done much of that in training for months. The intent was there but the passing was sloppy or way too hurried, giving the receiver no time to think about what to do.
Their goal was unlucky but you get them and came from a sloppy pass and then a big deflection.
In one of our better moves we nearly equalised with a great goal but Phillips volleyed wide, although he made up with it with another Dog and Duck goal via a king throw in first half stoppage time.
No subs at half time and, although we got stronger there was little to shout about.
When the subs did come they made kittens sense and the style or tactics didn’t change. Not sure why Grant came on or why Diangana went off. Not sure why Phillips, who was a threat of not playing well, made way for Robinson.
Again there was no control or switch to 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 - or any reaction to the tactical challenge. Just the tub thumping percentage stuff although our chance at the death, and we do always create one, fell to Hugill who tamely passed it back to the keeper having been played on 1v1. That’s the quality we’re dealing with.
Alarmingly, we’ve recruited to play one way in one formation only but it has to get better. It is not arrogant to say with our resources in these times more than any that we should have more than enough to play teams off the pitch. The benefit relegated teams get is almost embarrassing but it's still there. We genuinely need a decent striker as from the free agents who are out there.
Preston North Barnsley 1 West Bromwich Barnsley 1
As if the similarities between the approaches of the two sides wasn't staggering enough, long periods of long ball and a long throw specialist apiece, then the navy blue seating inside Deepdale could almost have had the casual viewer, recognising the Barnsley style now being deployed by the Albion, thinking that the game was being played at The Hawthorns. Having said that, the home side did at least look to play a link man between their midfield four and their two forwards whereas Ishmael, true to his words after the previous game, did indeed start with the side that ran out for the second-half in that one.
Having Diangana on the left saw him causing issues for the home side within three minutes after one of a tiny number of slick passing moves in a mostly aerial game saw him draw a foul, and a yellow card for the defender, although with the game plan not really designed to take advantage of a player on card inside three minutes by constantly going down that side on the ground, van den Berg was never likely to come close to getting a second.
Reach got played in behind the back line around 15 minutes but his pull back was poor - we really are missing Townsends' quality out there - and five minutes later a quickly taken goal-kick nearly saw Diangana spin off the last defender but he was adjudged to have fouled, though a minute later he would cut in from the left and get off a shot that the keeper though best to tip over, though I'm not convinced it would have been on target.
Just before the half-hour, Phillips tried pass the ball, from the right back area, towards Mowatt in the middle but didn't get the ball within five yards of him which allowed Preston to get a shooting opportunity from the dead centre of the field from where the shooter, in dragging it left, managed to hit the one player, Bartley, between him and Johnstone and the ball ended up nestling in the right-side netting.
Albion almost bounced straight back after Reach did pull one back to a team-mate but Phillips was unable to get the shot on target, but it was starting to look as though the home side would go in ahead when Furlong managed to steal fifteen yards at a throw-in that ended up being taken beyond the edge of the Preston box rather than closer to the half-way line and, after a defender could only knock the flat throw on to the back post, Phillips headed in.
Phillips would come closest to putting Albion ahead, within five minutes of the restart, as he curled one just over, but within ten minutes of that the substitutions began, first with Grant coming on for Diagana, well it was Grant's birthday so he probably got a run-out for that, and Robinson coming on for Phillips, two swaps which, for some bizare reason, left the hugely ineffective Hugill on so that, right at the death, he could softly pass it to the Preston keeper rather than force him into a save by getting off anything that could be classed as a shot.
In summary, this was a pretty dreadful game to watch, with large parts of it not having looked out of place had it been interspersed with footage of the kicking for territory duels that had been witnessed in the day's earlier RSA vs Aus rugby union game. Sadly though, Val's "box kick", as in the long kick towards the penalty box, seems to be the only order of the day, if not the season, which seems a shame when the small number of decent passing moves we did see did at least seem to cause issue for the opposition, but this game was, as I'm sure so many this season will be, crying out for a central playmaker, ahead of Livermore and Mowatt, to get the ball down on the deck and, as we all know, our manager doesn't need that kind of player. The closest we have is probably Robinson and I think I'd agree with Brendan Clegg in hoping that he starts: for me instead of Hugill, as the latter doesn't really seem to add anything that sending tall defenders forwards for set pieces and long throws doesn't.
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