Two promotion hopefuls went head to head on Saturday at Deepdale and they couldn’t be separated. Scott Sinclair’s first goal for North End was cancelled out by Rhian Brewster’s second goal in professional football, and after that chances were few and far between.
A fair result, but we could have done with all three points to help keep in touch with the play-off pack who are now three points ahead of us. Here are five things we learned from the Swansea City game:
Sinclair Is Off The Mark
A magical goal to get Scotty up and running for the club. The game was running at a tepid pace until he picked the ball up on the right, cut inside, and curled a beautiful shot into the net giving Swansea ‘keeper Freddie Woodman no chance.
It was a goal against his former club, but he wasn’t going to limit his celebrations. He ran off towards The Invincibles stand clearly delighted to get his first goal for the club.
His song was then sung in full flow, as we saw the wonderful goals he is capable of out of nowhere. Hopefully he can kick on and find the net on a regular basis for us now, because that’s exactly what we need.
Our Two Best Wingers Are Also Our Two Best Strikers
We were crying out for another striker in the January window, but we’re left with what we’ve got and it seems like an unbalanced squad now. Our quality is clear in midfield and our three strikers in Sean Maguire, David Nugent and Jayden Stockley are there to compliment the midfield.
However, with Sinclair now at the club Alex Neil has changed things around somewhat. Sinclair and Tom Barkhuizen have started to play down the middle even though you would consider them to be ‘wingers’. I use that term loosely because these days you tend to just group players as ‘attackers’ with the formations used, but with their pace you’d definitely expect them to play out wide. However it’s tough for Neil to incorporate everyone he wants into that team, and you could argue the eleven chosen for the last two games is our strongest available.
We’ve got an abundance of great central midfielders, two great wide players and then up front we are lacking. Neil has to make that work somehow and really Sinclair, Harrop and Barkhuizen should be given free roles when attacking. That makes it hard not to have a focal point though, and can also make it tough when they have to drop back and defend.
Swansea Were A Horrible Team To Play
Arriving on the back of a good reputation under Steve Cooper for playing attractive football, Swansea showed up with a team full of niggly players, wanting to rub North End up in the wrong way and try and cheat the referee.
Andre Ayew spent the first half an hour on the floor feigning injury, and then when Darnell Fisher went down with a head injury the referee Geoff Eltringham correctly stopped play. George Byers took exception to this, believing that nothing was wrong with Darnell and remonstrating with the referee, clearly forgetting Ayew had been rolling around the floor for most of the game up until this point.
Rhian Brewster was also lucky to stay on the pitch after a two footed off the ground challenge on Ben Pearson. They showed a lack of class throughout. Swansea have a lot of highly rated young players on loan from the Premier League, and perhaps that type of player arrives with a certain degree of arrogance, which leads to that sort of performance.
Brewster Hasn’t Made It Yet
In just his seventh game in professional football, Rhian Brewster scored his second goal. His celebration suggested he’s already made it in the game, and is clearly very full of himself. At just 19 years of age, it would help him a lot if he learned some class.
Of course he’s arrived with a lot of expectation, he’s been highly touted for a couple of years now, and was on the bench for Liverpool’s Champions League final victory last season. He’s got a long way to go though. After scoring a goal that basically hit him from two yards away on Saturday he ran in front of the Town End and stood there smiling.
Sometimes the fans have brought this on themselves for numerous reasons, but this kid had never even played against us before. With no rivalry between the two clubs he clearly just wanted to rile us up. Even when walking back to the centre circle he turned back for one more smirk at the North End faithful.
You could maybe understand it if it was a good goal like Sinclair’s but he won’t score an easier one. It set the tone for the game and the referee struggled to keep control of it. His aforementioned tackle on Pearson was no better, and hopefully Brewster will learn a lesson or two at this level.
Pearson Is Different Class
It’s an absolute pleasure to watch this man on a weekly basis. He’s come on leaps and bounds since signing with us four years ago now. The passion and energy the 25-year-old provides is immeasurable. He is integral for us, and it makes the end of this season even more important if we are to hold onto him any longer.
With under 18 months left on his contract, if we don’t go up he’ll surely have plenty of admirers and we will be pushed into selling. I would love to see him continue to progress at Deepdale. 7 yellow cards in 27 Championship games for Pearo also shows he has curbed his needless bookings as well every so slightly.
The way he controls the game, marauders up and down the field and wins back for possession for us is fantastic, and you can tell that this is clearly a player that is desperate for success this season with North End.
If you haven’t yet listened to this week’s ‘From The Finney Meets…’ episode of the podcast with Colin Murray, it is available via all good streaming platforms. You can also listen by clicking on the play button below: