Preston North End were hit with another setback in their fight for promotion on Saturday afternoon, as they were beaten 3-1 by QPR at Deepdale.
Things had started well for Alex Neil’s side, when Daniel Johnson put them ahead from the penalty spot 19 minutes in, which was enough to give North End the advantage at half time.
QPR would draw level 15 minutes into the second half, through Grant Hall, before Preston were handed a big opportunity to take control of the game when Rangers midfielder Geoff Cameron was sent off for a second bookable offence.
That however, was something Preston were unable to do, as Ryan Manning and Eberechi Eze both found the net to secure all three points for the visitors.
Following that defeat, Preston remain sixth in the Championship table, although they are now just one point ahead of seventh-placed Bristol City in the race for the play-off places, leaving Alex Neil with much to think about going forward.
Here, we take a look at three things we learnt about Preston from that defeat to QPR.
They need to be more ruthless
If Preston are to secure a place in the play-offs – and indeed win promotion – this season, they will have to take their chances with much more efficiency than they did on Saturday afternoon.
After the game, QPR boss Mark Warburton admitted himself that his side should have been further behind at the break, as Preston squandered a number of chances to put the game to bed early.
That is something they were unable to do, allowing Rangers the chance to pull themselves back into this game, which they duly did, and that is something that ought to give plenty of teams encouragement when they face North End between now and the end of the season, thus putting more pressure on Neil’s side, and highlighting the changes they will have to make if they are to secure a top-six spot this season.
This was a big opportunity missed
What will be particularly disappointing about this defeat for Preston, is the manner in which it came.
The sending off of Geoff Cameron with more than 20 minutes of the game remaining gave North End the opportunity to really take control of this match with the score at 1-1, and the fact they failed to that may lead to some questions ability to handle the pressure of such a situation.
Indeed, only two teams have conceded more goals than QPR in the Championship this season, so it does seem as though this is a real chance to lay down a marker that has been missed by North End against a side who look pretty well set in midtable.
With the vast majority of their remaining games to come against sides still fighting for one thing or another at either end of the table, this sort of opening is one that may not come around again, meaning you have to wonder how big a miss the points on offer here could be, come the end of the season.
They have been lucky recently
Considering there were just seven points separating Preston in sixth and Millwall in 11th three games ago, it is quite remarkable that North End still occupy that final play-off spot, given they have lost all three games since then.
Indeed, with a number of clubs immediately below them in the play-off race – including Bristol City, Blackburn and Swansea – all failing to pick up any wins during that run of games, it seems that for now at least, things elsewhere have been going Preston’s way.
As a result, a place in the play-offs just about remains in their hands for now, but with the gap to the chasing pack slowly closing in, and the likes of Cardiff and the aforementioned Millwall both showing promising form to suddenly come from further back in the race for the top six, it seems as though Preston need to start picking up points of their own again sooner rather than later, or else their luck could be about to run out.