Paul Huntington admitted North End weren’t at their best against Rotherham United, with the Millers beating Alex Neil’s side 2-1 at the New York Stadium, but said he and his team-mates would regroup and come back stronger as they head into the international break.
The Lilywhites’ fine run of away form came to an end as Matt Crooks netted the winner four minutes from time, just moments after Ryan Ledson had negated Richard Wood’s opener with his first goal for the club.
Hunts told iFollow PNE that North End needed to be better for the goals they conceded and improve their game management after they looked to be heading for a point and pressing for even more, until that late winner at the wrong end of the pitch.
“We were the team on top, [but] we weren’t at our best,” said the defender. “Usually we have players putting their foot on the ball, we got drawn into playing how they play.
“At 1-1, we’re on top, we’re running back quickly to get the ball to attack and we give the ball away. We’re quite open and expansive at that point and you’ve still got a long way to go and Joe tried to take one for the team, unfortunately he didn’t quite get it and we’ve all got attracted and switched off on one side of the pitch. We’ve got to be better than that.
“We were certainly made aware of how tough a game it was going to be and obviously the high of the other night and even at 2-1 we’ve had Jayden’s header, you just need a bit of luck, it’s hit the inside of the post and gone straight back to the goalkeeper.
“I think it was pretty even, I know we were pushing but I thought a draw probably would have been about right. You’re on top, it’s about managing the game and we haven’t done that. We’ve been hurt by giving the ball away and then not defending it. It’s happened a few times this season and it’s frustrating.”
Hunts added that he feels the Lilywhites need to find the right balance in defence and attack on a more consistent basis.
“We’ve got plenty of experience on the pitch, I think it’s just knowhow and while we’re pushing for it, we make sure we’re solid and our set-up behind the ball is right because we’ve had opportunities to stop attacks in a couple of games this season and haven’t managed to do it.
“Ultimately, it’s cost us, so it’s disappointing, especially when we were the team in the ascendancy. Our away form has been good but we can’t afford to have off days. We’ll have to regroup and get on with it.
“You see results like that, we’re just going to have to improve that side of our game, take care in key areas of the pitch, both on the ball and in our set-up behind it because we know we need to be better than that, and we’ve showed that but it’s finding that consistently.
“It’s key mistakes in key areas, they weren’t really causing us too many problems, we’ve just got to take care of the ball and make sure that we’re in positions to then affect it defensively, which as a defender you’re pulling your hair out really because you want to be set-up.”
The No.23 is confident that the group will use the upcoming two-week international break to good effect, both in improving where required and hoping to call upon current absentees by the time Sheffield Wednesday play visitors at Deepdale in a fortnight’s time.
“Last 20 minutes, I thought we were the team that was going to go on and win it. There’s a lot of tired bodies in there, I think it’s been a hectic period and we need to regroup now and work on the things we haven’t quite been good at.
“Hopefully, we get the likes of Ben Pearson and Ben Davies back after the break and I’m sure that will improve us in the long run. We’ll reflect on this and make sure we come back better. I think we’ve got an honest group, I think we’ll look at each other and come back stronger.”
Watch Hunts' post-match thoughts in full by clicking the video above.