Preston North End’s 3-0 defeat at the weekend against Nottingham Forest made quite a few things a bit clearer amongst the Lilywhites’ camp – and one player’s absence was especially felt.
North End went to the City Ground off the back of two successive wins, with the more impressive one being away at unbeaten league leaders Bournemouth in midweek where Frankie McAvoy’s side ran out 2-1 winners.
Perhaps the efforts of that were a bit too strenuous as PNE were second best for the majority of their time on Trentside this past Saturday afternoon, where a Lewis Grabban brace and a Jack Colback strike sealed the three points for Steve Cooper’s outfit.
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North End held their own until the 32nd minute which is when Grabban opened the scoring from the spot, and 12 minutes before that they suffered a real blow when Patrick Bauer went off injured.
The man who kept the prolific Dominic Solanke ever so quiet at the Vitality Stadium last Wednesday has been a key man for PNE this season when they’ve not lost games, scoring two goals as well for the Lancashire club.
But he began limping early on and when he conceded a free kick out wide, the German giant didn’t get back up off the floor until he was substituted for Jordan Storey.
The difference in defensive display without Bauer was made immediately clear – PNE struggled to deal with a deluge of Forest attacks and the worrying news emerged post-match that it was another achilles injury for the 29-year-old.
McAvoy stated that it wasn’t as serious as the December 2020 rupture that saw him stretchered off at Bournemouth and miss over eight months of competitive action, but it’s a concern either way.
But Bauer’s early withdrawal and subsequent falling apart of PNE’s defence made something abundantly clear to everyone – a new contract needs to be sorted immediately.
PNE were able to take Bauer off the hands of Charlton Athletic in the summer of 2019 on a free transfer, not long after he scored the winning goal in the League One play-off final at Wembley to secure promotion to the Addicks, and there are fears amongst the fans that the same fate could occur if the club don’t get their act together.
Recent contract extensions have come for Jordan Storey and more surprisingly Brad Potts, whilst the prolific Emil Riis has also added an extra year to his deal so there’s clearly movements being made in the squad.
However tying up Bauer’s future has never been more important and North End need to start doing the work now before 2022 arrives and clubs from overseas and Scotland can approach the defender on a pre-contract agreement.
Could there be a bit of skepticism from the board’s perspective regarding Bauer’s achilles? Potentially – some players don’t come back from injuries that severe but from what we’ve seen of PNE’s BFG this season it doesn’t look as though he’s missed a step.
This latest setback though could be an awkward one, but it should deter from the fact that a new contract is needed as soon as possible.