On the back of a 3-0 home defeat to the champions of England with, arguably, the best manager in world football at the helm, I felt it a little bit harsh to do our usual post-match content piece. So, there’ll be no proper player ratings.
Though there were certain performances I thought could have been better, from back to front every player on the pitch in Lilywhite tonight can hold their heads high. There’s no shame in losing 3-0 to Manchester City with the likes of World Cup and European Championship winner David Silva, Copa America winner Gabriel Jesus, the effervescent Raheem Sterling all in their starting XI and £60m Riyad Mahrez coming off the bench.
There was a bit of criticism about the starting XI that Alex Neil selected and I have to say, I was a bit in the middle. I felt we could have gone a bit stronger with the likes of Gally, Bauer, Pearson and Maguire all missing out completely but it really wasn’t the end of the world that they missed out. The likes of Ryan Ledson, Jordan Storey and Connor Ripley have all had decent enough games in the opening 2 rounds of the Carabao Cup and rightly deserved to keep their places in the XI for this one in my opinion.
The changes made by Neil with Johnson, Barkhuizen, Fisher and Davies all coming in for the game were, in my opinion, correct. But ultimately, and the gaffer has said as much himself in the press, the league is our bread and butter.
AN: “The players that weren’t involved tonight were for a variety of different reasons, the league is our bread and butter and we had to make sure we had the balance right between the lads who deserved to play and conserving enough for the weekend as well.” #pnefc
— Preston North End FC (@pnefc) September 24, 2019
It’s great having a cup tie like tonight but the chances of us a. beating City are slim no matter the XI on the pitch and b. even if we did beat City, the chances of us going on and winning the cup are, arguably just as slim.
There were however, from a North End point of a view, some positives to take from the game tonight. Firstly, David Nugent made his second debut in Lilywhite and though it looked tough for him and he’s just coming back to fitness, he and the fans I’m sure, will be glad to be back.
Secondly, I thought there was 2 stand out performers for us in the game tonight. First of all was Daniel Johnson. He played 76 minutes tonight and he was as calm as he always is on the ball, was up and down the pitch, covering defensively and was always looking to pick the right pass to get us up the pitch and on the offensive. I was very impressed. He’s already shown it early on but he’ll be pivotal for us in any success we are to have this season.
The Rolls-Royce of a defender that we have at the club in Ben Davies was again, top drawer tonight. Okay, their first goal was a deflection off him but other than that, he rarely put a foot wrong all night.
Davies ended the game with an 86.3% pass accuracy, the highest of any North End player to complete 90 minutes. He made 3 clearances, the joint-most of any North End player with Darnell Fisher. Finally, he made the most passes of any Preston player with 51 `nd also won the second-most aerial duels in the game from one of Alex Neil’s men. In fact, only 5 City players completed more passes than Davies did all night.
I thought he showed his ability to perform at the top level tonight and he’s without a doubt a player that the club needs to be getting tied down with a new contract sooner rather than later. Along with a few others in fact but that’s a piece for another time.
Right now, we take what we can from a defeat like that and take it into the game at home against Bristol City on Saturday. Hopefully, we will see a few more people on the game and the lads get the backing that they rightfully deserve this season. We’re currently 3rd in the league and 1 point off the top with 20% of the season gone.
A final note, for those folks on twitter and elsewhere that are whinging about Raheem Sterling being applauded off the pitch by North End fans. It’s not that deep, get over it.