Alex Neil felt Queens Park Rangers’ equalising goal was a turning point in his side’s home defeat to Mark Warbuton’s side at Deepdale.
The London outfit overcame Daniel Johnson’s first half penalty with second half goals from Grant Hall, Ryan Manning and Ebere Eze to take all three points in PR1.
However, the manager felt his side had performed well in the first half, and that the visitors’ leveller within 20 minutes of the half-time restart proved a key moment in the contest.
“I think first half we were excellent, we should have been more than 1-0 up,” he told iFollow PNE. “The amount of times we got in behind them, the amount of good opportunities we had in terms of being in good areas, Seani hits the post, and you know it’s a slender lead.
“They come out, they change their set-up, they made two changes and put more energy in the middle of the pitch. I thought they were much more competitive at the start of the second half, however the goal comes from us giving a stupid free-kick away down the left, I think we lost the ball at left back area.
“They put a ball into the box and we get beat at the back post and it’s absolutely crap. That was a big turning point, obviously with the goal it goes 1-1 at that stage, and then for us right after that, I thought we had a great bit of movement from Sean and I don’t know what he’s done at the moment but he’s so unfortunate.
“He hits the post first half with a great strike, he has a great opportunity second half with his header, hits the bar comes back and it just sort of comes over his head.”
The visitors had Geoff Cameron dismissed to a second yellow card just after their equaliser, but North End were forced to replace Paul Gallagher shortly after, which the manager also felt was decisive in the latter stages of the game.
“They go down to ten men and I think the biggest difficulty we’ve got at that stage is the guy who I think’s the most influential for us when they’ve got ten men is Paul Gallagher and he’s hobbling about with his calf and we really need him to get his foot on the ball and start us playing.
“But the problem we’ve got is we need him to come off. We throw caution to the wind, put an extra forward om to try to get us that attacking impetus to win, and to be honest, it probably hindered us more than it helped us because what we tended to do, instead of making the extra passes we needed to get up the pitch, we became really direct in our play.
“It suited them because we were turning the ball over too much; we were putting it forward, they were heading it out, we weren’t picking up second balls and then they were breaking on us. The chance that Sean hits the bar with, I think if that goes in we go 2-1 up and I think we probably go on and win the game.
“To be fair to them, the goal from Manning is a great bit of quality, he’s edge of the box, he gets it up and over, underside of the bar and scores. We’ve got to be more aggressive then to try to get the goals, we made another two changes to try to really force the issue and we leave ourselves vulnerable.”
Jayden Stockley was Gallagher’s replacement, and the manager agreed that he might have been awarded a penalty on a couple of occasions after his introduction from the bench.
“I thought there was two occasions where he just got bashed off the ball, but the referee has let it go.
“I think the difficulty we’ve got when we put Jayden on is it is going to be more direct, it is going to be more physical, and I think that he’s more likely to let those go, although I did think it was a foul on him.
“It’s a sore one to take at the moment, everybody will be disappointed and frustrated, and it was a chance, certainly an opportunity missed for us today.”
The manager will be looking to reanyalyse the game and put right the mistakes of his side in the next game; away to Luton Town next weekend.
“There’s nine games remaining, we’re still sitting in the Play-Off positions. What’s more concerning for us is the fact that we had a really good opportunity today and we’ve let it pass.
“I think that when we’re on top of games, we were on top here against Millwall first 30 minutes and didn’t take our chances, I thought first half today we probably should have been more than one ahead and we had a great chance to make it 2-1.
“Goals change games, it really is as simple as that. I think if we score the second goal it’s a different game, they score the second goal and we have to go more aggressive and then it’s difficult from that point. It’s raw at the moment, there’s not a lot for me to say, I need to have a look back and see where we collectively went wrong.”
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