After a staggering two-game winning streak, Blues were dealt a harsh blow of reality on Saturday as Preston ended our impressive run of unbeaten home games.
Blues v Preston
It truly was a game of two halves. Preston were composed on the ball and controlled the game in the first half as Blues struggled and looked void of ideas.
After a goal that Preston probably deserved in the 23rd minute, the rest of the half petered out. The second half was a different story as Blues came out swinging and ready to graft.
The game really started to change when Gimenez came on for Mrabti on the hour mark. He closed down, hustled and harried the Preston back line, and looked to have got his just reward when he slotted home Juke’s cross.
Correctly, albeit frustratingly, the goal was ruled offside. The decision spurred on the fans and players alike. Preston, who dominated possession in the first half, couldn’t string two passes together in the second half, and Blues threw everything at The Lilywhites.
The game felt like a cross between our games versus Brentford and Charlton. The away team nicks a goal, sits back and soaks up the pressure to the frustration of the home side, and leaves the ground wondering how they hell did we get away with that!?
A draw would have certainly been a fair result, but we just couldn’t break Preston down. Players like Crowley, Villalba, Mrabti, even Sunjic, were brought to the club for their ability to find the gaps in the buses parked by defences. Yet again, we came away feeling frustrated.
One step forward, two steps back?
We didn’t necessarily play badly on Saturday. After a few shaky performances at the start of the season, our defence looked solid against Preston. We didn’t concede too many chances, but as has so often been the problem for Blues, we didn’t create many either.
Our players created a few decent chances against Charlton, and as Pep has said, we were playing and moving as a team, rather than as one block of defenders and a separate block of attackers.
I’m struggling to remember the two shots on target that we apparently had against Preston. Set pieces are normally our strength, but despite seven corners and numerous long-throws from Roberts, the equaliser never came.
It may just be a case of chalking it down to one of those games. Sometimes the luck just isn’t on your side, a point exacerbated by the referee sitting firmly in Alex Neil’s pocket and abiding by the Preston manager’s every word.
A look ahead to Derby
Another week’s rest thanks to our early (and definitely much-wanted) departure from the League Cup, then on to Pride Park we go on Saturday.
Derby sit five points and seven places below us in the table. They looked exciting on matchday one of the season against Huddersfield, but that have been down to the poor quality of the opposition, who now sit bottom of the table.
Five draws and two defeats in the league since then has led to some criticism from their fans, but much like us, they’re a team with a new manager very much in transition.
We’ve seemed to struggled at Pride Park in recent years, so I think a draw would be a good result for Blues.
A quick word on our caretaker head coach. I think as the WAB guys have said, it seems that Pep is always two defeats away from being sacked.
I still find it an odd choice that we spent a lot of money over the summer, but stuck with an interim boss, which fuels a sense of uncertainty around the club, rather than either backing him wholeheartedly and deleting caretaker from his job title, or bringing in someone new.
Many people think he’ll be gone by Christmas. I can’t decide if I think it’s better to stop delaying the inevitable and just put Pep out of his misery, or give it to him permanently to increase his authority at the club.
I think what seems the best compromise is to see where we are in the table at Christmas. If things are looking good, appoint him permanently until the end of the summer. If not, swing that sword.
P.S. It’s nice to know that Pep is a fan of the WAB podcast. After the lads criticised him for being too placid on the touchline in games, he went and earned himself a yellow card against Charlton, a feat he came close to repeating against Preston. He now seems to enjoy going berserk on the touch in every game over every decision. Keep it up, and keep right on, Pep.
Photo Courtesy: Roy Smiljanic / BCFC