Preston North End’s wretched 2021 continued last night with a 2-0 defeat away at Middlesbrough – and it has put the pressure on manager Alex Neil even more.
The Lilywhites have won just three times this year and Neil was looking for a response after a very disappointing performance in a 1-0 weekend loss to the Championship’s bottom side Wycombe Wanderers.
Fans have blamed Neil for some of his selections and tactics recently, but there’s not much he could have done to change what happened in the first half.
North End played well in the opening moments but went behind to a comical own goal from Jordan Storey, who sliced Yannick Bolasie’s cross into his own net.
PNE then saw captain Alan Browne sent off for kicking out at Sam Morsy, with the Egyptian landing two elbows on the Ireland international beforehand that went unseen by referee Oliver Langford.
Neil was sent off at half time for his protestations, and then Boro sealed the win early in the second half through substitute Marcus Tavernier.
Quiz: 16 celebrities that support Preston North End – But do they really?
Neil – managing from the stands after his sending off – used all five substitutes in the second half but didn’t bring on Everton loanee Anthony Gordon, a decision that puzzled North End fans who believe he is their most exciting player.
And the Scot’s post-match comments on why he chose not to give the teenager some minutes only infuriated supporters more, saying that his style of play would not have suited featuring against Neil Warnock’s men and that the winger takes ‘too many touches’.
Neil on Gordon: "He wants to take touches – against Boro they lock you in so you need to limit touches – hence the runners. We beat Boro 3-0 last time with that strategy. Fans want to see exciting players, I understand that & that's not lost on me." #pnefc
— George Hodgson (@GHodgsonSport) March 16, 2021
North End fans have been reacting to this comment on Twitter and they’re not happy to say the very least.
Too much worrying about our opposition rather than playing to our own strengths…
— JP (@_jackpom) March 16, 2021
I am truly sick of this manager telling us about the opposition. I understand the need to analyse opposing teams but what happened about playing to our strengths. It was Middlesbrough not Barcelona for God sake.
— John Roper (@Budgierustler34) March 16, 2021
What about the 2 games before tonight then? I'll give him one thing, he's got an excuse lined up for most questions
— luke (@fortsandvodka) March 16, 2021
Another point to this. If he feels this is the case, why include him in the squad at all? Clearly no intention of ever bringing him on for those reasons, strange management decision. Make the call PR. The club and fans are more important than anything or anyone #pnefc
— ALEX NEIL OUT 👋 (@PrestonBible) March 16, 2021
I genuinely think that this goes down as the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen a Preston manager say. And we've had some bad managers.
He needs to go for his own sanity
— Dan Philipson (@dannypne7) March 16, 2021
So he expected us to win with touching the ball as little as possible?
How is he still in a job?
— Ewan🏴 (@Ewan_PNE) March 16, 2021
Makes zero sense
— andy hodge (@andy_hodge) March 16, 2021
— ches501 (@ches501) March 16, 2021
There should be only one runner and that's Neil to the job center.
— Dave(PNE) Hogg (@DaveHogg2) March 16, 2021
Baffling, absolutely baffling.
— Gary B (@gazpne) March 16, 2021