The game was basically turned on the incident when centre back Shane Duffy demonstrated his goalkeeping skills with a fine one handed save. A short sighted and ludicrous thing to do so soon in the game that gave Preston an equaliser from the resultant penalty. What goes through a man's mind when he makes a decision like that? How does he weigh up the risks and the consequences? Short answer is, he clearly didn't. With one sub already used it was a remarkably stupid thing to do by a player who has been riding a tide of adulation with a late winner at Brentford and a dream debut for Ireland.
How a team reacts psychologically to being reduced to ten is telling. In our title winning season I remember a 10 man performance against Leeds of such breathtaking courage, tenacity and raw passion that I felt the title was possible, even if we only gained the one point. Players did extraordinary things: Chris Sutton dropping deep and Alan Shearer grafting as a lone striker. Today told you a great deal about the character and quality of the squad.
Jordi Gomez is not who you need in a game like this. A stroller rather than a grafter, his whole body language exuded his lack of comfort in being asked to do that bit extra. Danny Graham was still sulking after being denied the earlier free kick that he allowed himself to be crowded out of the game and constantly chased decisions. You're less likely to get a decision if you are constantly trying to play the ref. Afterall, referees are psychological beings too.
Ben Marshall on the other hand seemed to want to win the game single handedly. For me, him and Darragh Lenihan were the most up for it and demonstrated the most grit. Marshall, sadly, seemed to let his determination get the better of him and got involved in some handbags at the end of the first half. He also got caught out trying to nutmeg Garner and that drained him of the confidence to take players on after that. All in the mind.
I hate blaming referees for losing games. It lets the underperformers off the hook and provides an easy alibi for failure. The peek I've had at social media and the calls to Radio Rovers have made much of Chris Brown's penalty claim and the incidents I've already mentioned. Less has been made of Preston's dominance of the midfield and at least three clear cut chances that Preston should have scored, such was their dominance.
There was one player on the pitch today who looked mentally prepared and focused and that was ex-Rovers player Paul Gallagher, provider of the second goal and a man with a clear job to do. He just couldn't believe his luck that Jordi Gomez was so willing to give him the freedom to do as he pleased.