As the cries of “Milllllllllllllllllll” grew louder and as the seconds beat away on the referee’s watch, Preston fans got that all too familiar sinking feeling.
In truth, the game could’ve continued for hours and we still wouldn’t have scored. At 1-0 down, PNE were chasing the game, but in the end, we wouldn’t even register a shot on target in the second half.
Millwall were good value for their three points, defending resolutely, working hard and chasing every second ball.
We were, well, wretched.
But, it’s only the first game of the season. We can’t look too much into it and we’ve got to remember that there were a few surprise results across-the-board today.
As they say, 10 games in is when the league table can be seriously acknowledged.
Anyway, onto a few talking points:
Clarke Ain’t No Fullback
Don’t get me wrong, Clarke is one of the most solid defenders at the club. Last season, he was the only outfield player in the Championship to never be dispossessed. In truth, this is because he just doesn’t get forward.
The 31-year-old isn’t the most mobile defender, meaning he can’t exactly give the winger ahead of him much support.
He also played a role in Millwall’s winning goal, failing to close down tricky winger Connor Mahoney before allowing a ball to be drilled into the box where Jed Wallace powered home the only goal of the game.
It also begs the question – why did we sign Rafferty? Joe Rafferty is a much more orthodox right back and was brought in to compete with Darnell Fisher. Yet Tom Clarke, who limits our attacking impetus, is still playing ahead of him.
Shot-stopper Declan Rudd made arguably another goalkeeper error, again emphasising the need for a reshuffle between the sticks.
Jed Wallace struck the ball hard, but very much down the middle. Declan Rudd got two hands to it, pushing the ball into the far corner.
This was a weekend of goalkeeping howlers from a number of Championship stoppers, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that we need a more confident number one.
Our big German had a fine competitive debut, showing composure and physical prowess.
Bauer is effective in both boxes with his aerial ability and is pretty mobile for lumbering centre half.
He will turn out to be a very shrewd bit of business this season.
The diminutive Irishman played the best part of an hour as the lone striker, but struggled enormously against Millwall’s brutish defence.
Although it would be wrong to heap all the blame on Seani. Alan Browne offered very little other than our only shot on target, while Potts looked leggy and Barkhuizen ineffective.
Stockley gave Maguire some respite and linked up well with the Irish international on a number of occasions, but a lack of midfield creativity limited any goalscoring opportunities.
If we are going to hoof the ball forward, we may as well stick with Stockley.
A New Striker?
So, with Maguire offering pace, but little physicality and Stockley offering physicality but no pace, could we do with a more balanced centre forward?
Hugill used to be that man.
The Middlesbrough-born frontman was mobile, could accelerate quickly and won a lot of duels.
But, despite plenty of talk surrounding his potential return, he’s now at QPR.
PNE are certainly in the market for a new striker and I wouldn’t be surprised if we went for someone with a similar profile to Jordan Hugill.