Another poor game at Deepdale saw us start the new year with a 2-0 defeat to Boro. In truth, it could have been an even bigger scoreline. We never looked like scoring and it’s clear we need to take action quickly in January before the season fizzles out.
Here’s five things we learnt from the Boro game:
2 Wins From 10 is Relegation Form
After such a promising start to the season, even briefly leading the table after the win against Charlton, we now find ourselves dropping down the table miles behind West Brom and Leeds.
Our last 10 games have yielded just 2 wins and 8 points overall in that time. That puts us 21st in the form table. We’ve also only managed to score 5 goals in that time which is a huge worry and it’s apparent we lack any creativity and attacking threat of late. Something needs to change.
If we’d have won the last two games we’d be sitting in 3rd place. That would put us in a much stronger position heading into what will be a very competitive transfer window. Instead we’re clinging onto the playoffs and we’re an out of form team. That could be crucial when it comes to loan signings who will presumably have a few offers in the table.
2 Wingers and a Striker are Needed
Speaking of the transfer window, it’s in the attacking third of the pitch where signings are needed. We’re crying out for a striker.
Some people say we need a 20 goal a season striker, but we could just do with a 10 goal a season striker because we don’t even have one of those at the moment. Louis Moult could have been that (possibly) but David Nugent and Jayden Stockley aren’t the most prolific pair.
We used to be able to rely on Sean Maguire and Tom Barkhuizen for goals but they have dried up recently. Maguire has scored one in 18 and Barkhuizen none in 12. Barky still gives us a threat but we are yet to properly replace Callum Robinson.
For me, we need two wingers and a striker in January. Get these in and we may start scoring goals again.
There have been links with Ivan Toney at Peterborough and talk of Callum Robinson coming back on loan but neither will happen. We know that for a fact. Let’s just hope the deals the club are working on come off sooner rather than later.
Another Ineffective 90 From Maguire
It remains to be seen what secretive information Sean Maguire has on Alex Neil that allows him to play the full 90 minutes week in week out.
In my opinion, he offered nothing on Wednesday, barely getting involved in the game. Whilst no player particularly shone, on the other wing at least when Barky received the ball he made some direct runs, beat his man and got into some promising areas.
Maguire didn’t do that once, if anything when he gets the ball, he turns back, and slows down the play rather than moving forward. We need better options and in turn better delivery to our striker. The Irishman may still be a good option off the bench but especially when we go a goal down and we’re chasing games he’s not the answer.
He doesn’t seem to have the creativity to unlock these defences. The other thing to note is that he just looks completely devoid of confidence which takes us nicely into the next section.
Confidence is low
In games at Deepdale earlier in the season, we used to play slick, high tempo, attacking football. It makes a massive difference when we go a goal up as opposed to when we’re chasing the game.
But on Wednesday it was obvious the team were lacking confidence. Many times when we had the ball around the halfway line the players didn’t know what to do, and would turn and knock it back to Declan Rudd. Much to the dismay of the North End faithful.
We never looked like scoring despite numerous crosses into the box. We lack an attacking threat and we are easy to defend against at the moment. Even when the ball is launched into the box we rarely manage to have a shot on target.
We lack ideas with the ball outside the box and usually our most creative player in Paul Gallagher was awful against Boro. He fluffed three good chances which summed up our performance.
It’s a question that has been asked regularly this season but, at this stage, it’s becoming more staggering that they are not featuring at all.
Firstly Andre Green’s loan spell has been brought to an end and he has joined Charlton Athletic on loan for the remainder of the season. Initially, it seemed like a promising loan signing but it’s turned out to be quite disastrous. Obviously we don’t see what happens in training but it doesn’t look like Alex Neil has rated him.
However, Tom Bayliss and Josh Ginnelly are our players on permanent contracts with the former reportedly costing us a fair sum of money. Bayliss has a lot of competition in that midfield but as one of the best players in League One last season, he must be incredibly frustrated with his lack of chances.
Neil often rotates his team around, but the changes are all too predictable now and the team has become stagnant. We need something fresh so as well as looking at the transfer window let’s have a look at what we already have.
Bayliss is a good ball carrier and can offer us something different in the middle. Perhaps we’ll see this against Norwich City on Saturday. Josh Ginnelly was signed a year ago from Walsall and in his handful of cameo appearances since then he’s looking like a promising, tricky winger.
With the other wingers failing to produce the goods surely he deserves a go. At least from the bench. Neil is a bit strange with some of his signings, he almost seems to write them off straight away.
With the team’s form so disappointing of late, there’s no harm in him mixing things up a bit and I suspect that there will be a fair few changes ahead of this Saturday’s game against Norwich City in the 3rd round of the FA Cup.
Not listened to our chat with North End legend and current Salford City manager, Graham Alexander yet? Both episodes are available now.
Episode 1 👇🏻
Episode 2 👇🏻