The league table generally only takes shape after ten games but already Preston are starting to press tha panic button after a run of disappointing performance capped by a woeful result against a team that had not won since April.
Putting aside all issues with investment or lack of Neil has got rid of a number of fringe players and signed a handful of replacements who appear to be an upgrade. Essentially the squad has been padded out with more competition but the manager hasn't a clue on his best eleven.
The manager must take some of the brunt for the game against Reading. He has consistently played a set formation yet decided to a change to three centre backs against a side sitting bottom of the league.
In addition, Neil decided to play none of his new signings as he reverted to an eleven who were all here last season. The experiment failed miserable as Preston were more exposed than ever conceding three goals.
Without Pearson, Ledson or even Browne, Preston lack any punch in midfield. Johnson was like a little boy lost in a holding role and Preston were simply over run in the middle of the park.
Confidence is low. North End had a good start. Moult is an average striker at this level and needs several chances before he finds the net. This showed although Preston did have a free header which hit the post. An early goal may have changed the game.
Despite the early pressure it was the visitors who scored against the run of play. There was an alleged foul in the build up but there was no whistle and Reading were allowed to walk through unaided. Baldock was played in to fire home past Rudd.
Preston wee soon level thanks to a touch of fortune. The ball fell to Johnson at the edge of the box who is more comfortable in an attacking role. His shot from the edge of the box was deflecting leaving the keeper no chance.
Reading found space behind the wing backs and exploited this. Both Earl and Johnson were fooled when clever trick allowed a free run down the left of the box. A cross followed which resulted in a simple tap in for Ilori. Mistakes were being highlighted.
North End did get level again when Earl fired in a Ball which Robinson managed to get on the end of at the back post. It seems that Preston have to score multiple times these days to even be in with a chance of getting something out of a game.
North End could not hold on as defensive frailties came to the fore again. Defensively Preston were failing to pick up men and Bacuna was allowed to poke home from close range to give the visitors the win.
Preston are in a bad run of form. They need to arrest the slide before they become entrenched in a relegation battle as they presently sit second bottom with two tough trips to Yorkshire coming up.
There needs to be consistency in selection and formation. The has been too much change and indecisiveness which has caused chaos defensively. Whilst Preston look like they have goals in them they are liable to concede multiple times at present.
This is looking like a long and hard season. The push for the play offs from last season is a distant memory and North End have taken two steps back instead of forward.