Preston North End 0-2 Leeds United: Match Report

Once they lost their engine, Preston simply imploded, giving Leeds the freedom of Deepdale.

A 14 minute Bamford brace boosted Leeds back to second, while Preston found themselves licking their wounds back down in 11th – a position they are all too familiar with.

When Ben Pearson was given his marching orders for preventing a clear goal-scoring opportunity, the momentum of the game changed completely.

It was the 48th minute when Pearson commited the offence, meaning he has now received 43 yellow cards and 4 red cards in his last three seasons.

Compare that to the player who has had the second-most bookings in the last three Championship seasons and you will be spitting out your morning brew.

Birmingham City’s Maikel Kieftenbeld has been given 28 bookings in three seasons. I mean you don’t need a GCSE in Maths to work out just how crazy that is compared to Pearson.

Liability? Yes. Has he cost us the playoffs? Quite possibly.

But with Pearson, I guess it’s like having a kid who gets top marks in school, but also ends up spending most of his time in after-school detention.

How do you punish him?

We can’t just get rid of him. He’s simply too good. I mean, with Pearson in the side we win a much higher percentage of our games.

But equally he cannot continue to be so reckless. What use is a player who will miss a quarter of every season?

It really is the million dollar question.

The first half was nothing but frantic.

Leeds probably shaded the half in terms of chances created, but neither side could deliver a true moment of quality.

Much of Preston’s attacking impetus came through explosive German Lukas Nmecha on the right, while Leeds came closest when Mateusz Klich sent an angled shot whistling just past the post.

The city of Preston seemed to hold their breath watching that one creep inches wide.

But once Pearson had left the field-of-play, Leeds could smell blood.

They swooped in on Preston like vultures to a rotting carcass.

What followed was inevitable as the buoyed Leeds faithful urged their team to take the initiative.

Marcelo Bielsa’s troops surged forward wave after wave, shot after shot, until they eventually found a chink in Preston’s armour.

The ball ricocheted into the path of Patrick Bamford who carried it forward before striking a fine finish into the bottom corner from 25-yards out.

A peach of a strike from a man I have criticised plenty in the past. Perhaps he knew his harshest critic was watching on from the Invincibles Pavilion.

The ten men of Preston were shaken to the very core and in danger of being embarrassed.

Leeds fullback Luke Ayling pinged the post with an audacious effort before a neat passage of interplay allowed Klich to cross for Bamford who deftly headed the ball into the roof of the net.

He wheeled away to celebrate as Preston fans poured down the concourse in sheer frustration.

Game over and season over in a matter of moments.

Bamford had the perfect opportunity to make himself the hattrick hero, but he delayed his finish, allowing Ben Davies to charge back and clear the danger.

Our two young central defenders ensured that we kept some dignity in a game in which we were well-beaten.

And that’s something I’ve not been able to say a lot in 2019.

In fact, the last time we were “well-beaten” in the league was probably back on the 1st December. A day marked by the “Goalkeeping Blunder of the Century”.

Last night Leeds came knocking for their three points and we duly obliged.

Now where did it go wrong? I mean Pearson certainly didn’t cover himself in glory, but neither did any of our attacking options.

Maguire was isolated and bullied by the brutes at the back. Browne was a passenger for large parts and Robinson lacked his usual dynamism.

Ledson should have been brought on much sooner to act as a shield for the back four and pick up the midfield runners.

Stockley MUST start too. We need a striker who can cause the defence issues. A man who can be a handful and who also possesses quality in equal measure.

Could we experiment with a change in formation altogether?

Maguire and Stockley working together with two wide attackers offering support and Browne sat alongside Ledson in a deeper midfield role? It’s a possibility.

Now we’ve resigned ourselves to another season in the Championship, we may as well experiment in a bid to get the goals back after a run of three successive defeats which has seen us score just once.

With Gentry Day looming, we definitely need to get our mojo back.