Preston 2 - 0 Cardiff. Reaction

Last updated : 14 March 2023 By Paul Evans

Sabri Lamouchi has, rightly, won a lot of praise since his appointment as Cardiff City manager. He has shown himself to be astute tactically, has made some good substitutions that have influenced the outcome of matches and, most importantly, we have been able to win a few games when it was becoming absolutely imperative that we start doing so.


However, today’s 2-0 loss at Deepdale to a mid table Preston side with a wretched home record was a poor day for Lamouchi in my opinion – it was a match which followed what is becoming too familiar a pattern away from home and, frankly, I found his use, and non use, of substitutes bemusing.

2-0 flattered Preston as their second goal came after the ninety minute mark moments after we’d had our goalkeeper sent off for a second successive game, but I thought they were worth their win as City got increasingly careless as the game went on – i also thought we struggled to cope with the home team’s physicality.

In fact, I found myself feeling like I imagine supporters of teams who came off second best to some of our most physical sides of recent years must have felt – it seemed that we had the more talented players, but we ended up getting bullied. That’s not to say that Preston were just all about size and power, but they were generally a bigger team than us and they had an urgency about their work off the ball which we never really coped with.

Preston were nothing special when in possession mind and when some football broke out in what was a typically tight Championship encouner, it tended to coincide with our best spells of the game.

However, Birmingham apart, there’s a disturbing pattern emerging with our away league matches in 2023.

This was our sixth Championship away fixture of the year and five of them have had a depressingly familiar feel to them. At Blackburn, Luton Hull, Norwich and now Preston, we’ve been well in the game for long periods – Norwich was slightly different in that we conceded in the first half, rather than the second, but, even there, we had a twenty to twenty five minute spell where we completely dominated while the game was goalless. However, in none of the five games were we able to cash in with a goal at a time when the game could have gone either way.

At Blackburn, Hull and today we got to around the hour mark with the game goalless, but then conceded – in the first two of those matches, the one goal proved decisive, whereas today our opponents scored a meaningless second very late on. At Luton the goal came just before the ninety minute mark, but a common theme is, just as it was at Norwich, that we barely looked like scoring once we went behind in any of the matches – we’ve only conceded seven goals in our half a dozen away league in 2023, but the only two we’ve scored came in the only game where we avoided defeat, Birmingham.

Lamouchi made four changes to the side which beat Bristol City last weekend, Callum O’Dowda returned in what looked like a back four most of the time, but there were occasions in the first half where we were sticking with the back three plus wing backs – it was definitely a four in the second half though, as Jaden Philogene had much more of a license to wander, he definitely wasn’t playing as a wing back.

At least one of the other three changes was enforced and I suspect all three of them were in reality. As expected, Jac Alnwick made a league debut in goal in place of the suspended Ryan Allsop, but the absence of Joe Ralls and Connor Wickham was a surprise, particularly as, prior to the game, Sabri Lamouchi had said everybody was fit and available apart from hamstring victim Callum Robinson.

With three matches in the upcoming week, I suppose there’s a chance that there was some squad rotation going on, but, surely, both players would have been named among the substitutes if they were available? It seems to me that Ralls and Wickham were either ill or left out as a precaution against making some minor injury worse – otherwise, their absence from the eighteen makes little sense.

The game took a long time to come alive following a long injury delay after Preston goalkeeper Freddie Woodman received a bad cut to his face in a collision with Wickham’s replacement, Kion Etete as the striker looked to benefit from a clever pass from the in form Philogene from the only time he really got on the ball in the first half an hour or so.

Woodman, who has only conceded that derby winning goal by Aden Flint in what seems to me  like fifteen games against us, but is probably about six in reality, just got to the ball before Etete and got a knee to the head for his pains. As a result, the keeper bled from his eye for the rest of the opening forty five minutes without, it seems, any of the officials noticing, but City, who have not scored an away first half goal since Ryan Wintle’s at Stoke three months ago, ensured that the stricken keeper had a quiet time of it.

Etete, who, for me, played his best half of football for us in the opening forty five minutes, had Woodman scrambling with a twenty yarder which flew no more than a foot wide, but generally it was grim stuff which had the commentator on the stream I watched frequently groaning at what he was watching (I suppose it says something about the season we’re having that I was thinking that it was all pretty typical fare from us!).

For their part, Preston tested Alnwick with a couple of i corners into a heavily populated six yard area early on that he dealt with unconvincingly with weak punches that weren’t punished. Apart from that, there was a first sign of the carelessness which would increasingly become part of our performance as Preston were able to play a short corner which ended up with Troy Parrott drifting his shot across goal not far wide and centreback Bambo Diaby was a lot closer with a jabbed shot from around ten yards out just before the interval.

Alnwick had settled by now and he came to his side’s rescue as the hosts looked to step things up following an insipid first forty five minutes, but, in truth, the keeper shouldn’t really have been able to make his diving save because striker Tom Cannon should have buried the chance after he had cut inside Cedric Kipre.

City had begun the second half sloppily, but that escape prompted their best period of the game as Preston this time fell asleep to allow a short corner routine which ended with Philogene putting his shot from the edge of the penalty area about eighteen inches over. Woodman, who must love playing against us, then foiled Perry Ng with a diving save from his free kick from twenty five yards, but his best save came a few minutes later as Sory Kaba, who looked offside in the build up, let fly with a fine volley from twenty yards which drew a brilliant diving save from the keeper who had now started bleeding again.

Kaba had generally had a frustrating time of it as he suffered in comparison to his partner Etete, but this shot was another example of his ability to come up with quality efforts on goal which makes him a hard player to overlook when it comes to team selection – especially in this low scoring team.

However, the loanee was replaced almost straight after by Sheyi Ojo who had been left out of the starting line up for Andy Rinomhota. Unfortunately though, little or nothing was seen of Ojo as City lost their way – although the sub had nothing to do with the concession of a poor goal within four minutes of his introduction.

Philogene, so good last week, was involved in most of City’s best attacking moments, but still seemed on the edge of things here as he found it hard at times to counter Preston’s physicality and a spell of home pressure that would eventually result in the opening goal began with him weakly conceding possession. “Weak” was a word that could be applied to Kipre as well as he missed an attempted interception and was brushed aside by Cannon who gave Alnwick no chance from twelve yards.

Lamouchi reacted by withdrawing Rinomhota and giving Mark Harris some game time after a month or so out of first team contention, but that was the extent of the changes, despite the fact that Etete was less effective as his first half exertions appeared to be catching up with him, Ojo was not making an impact and a shot from Philogene which was blocked for a corner by a combination of Woodman and a defender apart, we were doing nothing to suggest an equaliser was coming.

At his Friday press conference City’s manager spoke of his love for Isaak Davies and Rubin Colwill. Well, given his reluctance to bring them on as his team were slipping to defeat, I can only assume that his love is like that of a father who doesn’t want his boys to play in men’s football for fear of them getting hurt – seriously, I found Lamouchi’s non use of further substitutes very odd.

Preston’s Bradley Potts missed from close range as City struggled to deal with a wickedly flighted free kick as Alnwick opted to remain on his line and this was the signal for a very tough last few minutes for City’s keeper who may have suspected that he had become the victim of a Crewe conspiracy!

First of all, Ryan Wintle blasted a pass back to Alnwick from the half way line which gave him no chance of preventing a corner and then, as the game went into added time, Ng played him a sliced, looping hospital back pass which Cannon latched on to only to be taken out by Alnwick for an obvious red card offence.

This finally prompted Lamouchi into a third substitution as third choice keeper Rohan Luthra came on. Luthra’s introduction into first team football was an unhappy one as he did well to parry Robbie Brady’s shot from the resultant free kick, but the ball was knocked back into play rather than to the side and away from danger, so another sub, Ched Evans, was left with the simple task of firing in from the edge of the six yard box.

Again, I could see little sense in the choice of Harris being the man to make way for Luthra. As it turned out, City were 2-0 down within seconds and the game was beyond them anyway, but if the free kick had been dealt with, we’d have been a goal down with about three minutes to play and we were withdrawing a forward!