It’s tough to be happy as a North End fan for more than three days this season. A great win in midweek but we were brought straight back down to earth with a disappointing home draw against Gareth Ainsworth’s Wycombe Wanderers.
Here are five things we learned from the 2-2 draw on Saturday…
Barky is Bang in Form
After some time on the bench earlier this season after his red card against Stoke, Tom Barkhuizen has started the last five games and scored four goals.
I’ve mentioned before that he is probably our best finisher at the club and usually makes the most of his chances. The Wycombe defence made a mountain out of a molehill with two backward headers giving Barky the chance to nip in front of the ‘keeper and win a little dinked header over him and into the back of the net.
Barkhuizen read the situation well and is looking in good form for us at the moment. He scored 11 goals in all competitions last season and is already on 6 for this campaign with around a third of the season gone.
Two Lucky Goals?
It was nice to be on the right end of defensive mistakes for once. The majority of the goals we have conceded this season have been soft and as I mentioned, the first goal for us on Saturday was a defensive cock-up by Wycombe and the second was an own goal.
We’ve given away too many easy goals this season so it was good to have a few go our way. Having said that the ones we conceded, we made it far too easy for them. Ex-Northender Daryl Horgan and Garath McCleary were given too much time to waltz through our defence and score the first. For the second, none of our players were quick enough to react to the free kick specialists Joe Jacobson’s free kick bouncing off the post. Scott Kashket was on his toes though and applied a nice finish.
Post Lockdown Form is Terrible
Would anyone be happy with a 17th placed finish this season? Because that’s where the stats point towards based on our form post the first lockdown.
Since football returned with the Luton Town game back in June we have played 25, won 8, drawn 6, and lost 11. We’ve scored 31 and conceded 34 in that time. It’s 30 points from 25 and extrapolated over a 46 game season that would equate to 55 points.
In the last two Championship seasons that would leave you with a 17th place finish. Our inconsistency, lack of squad depth, and injury list doesn’t point towards anything better. Despite a lot of the squad having been together for quite a while it feels like we’re very much in a transition phase, the manager has even said as much, in fact. We’re expecting departures and it could be some time before we’re competing for the top six in this league again.
Plenty of players are still learning as well. Emil Riis showed that with his shocking miss at the end of the game and his poor decision to not pass to Jayden Stockley. But it did take time for Jordan Hugill and Callum Robinson to progress at this club and they went on to better things.
Ainsworth Got His Tactics Spot On
We were lucky to come away from that match with a point. Wycombe deserved more and as the Chairboys’ manager, Gareth Ainsworth said after the game it felt like a defeat for them after conceding the late equaliser.
This is Wycombe’s first season at this level and Ainsworth has done a remarkable job on a next to nothing budget. They were far and away the favourites to be relegated this season and a home tie against them would be one you’d think would be a banker for a win for North End.
Ainsworth got his tactics spot on though and Alex Neil was left searching for a plan B, C, even a plan D after Ben Pearson went off injured. With Adebayo Akinfenwa causing problems for us, it allowed Horgan, McCleary, and Fred Onyedinma to feed off the scraps and they created some good chances. Wycombe have only won two games this season but they’ve been in a lot of tight games and Ainsworth is, as I’ve already said, doing a great job.
Many have tipped him as a future manager, whilst others have dismissed his style of play, but on Saturday’s showing he did himself no harm and you have to give him a lot of credit.
Some Fans Shouldn’t Be Allowed Back
Whilst the majority of us are all yearning for a time when we are allowed back into Deepdale (even though the performances at home aren’t doing much to entice us) some fans down south have already been allowed back into stadiums.
Taking a knee before a game is now customary with the Black Lives Matter movement and on a weekend when LGBTQ+ 🏳️🌈 awareness and rights were also being backed, it was shocking to see and hear about events at The Den in Millwall’s home tie against Derby County. Millwall fans haven’t exactly got the best of reputations and when 2,000 are let back in and all you can hear is booing when everyone takes a knee before kick-off, it’s not going to do anything to improve the reputation of said fans.
9 months some of us have been waiting to go and watch our beloved team again. Imagine finally being back and doing something like that? Thankfully Millwall lost but hopefully, there are further repercussions.
What it does prove is that there is still a problem in this country and awareness does need to continue to be raised.
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