The hail, the rain and a wet team ... the story of Preston North End 3 Rotherham United 0

THE game kicked off and the bad weather kicked in.

A hailstorm battered Deepdale, making the roofs of the stands clatter and leaving the pitch sodden as Rotherham United returned from the international break nursing more injuries and more misery.

The only grim solace was that results elsewhere meant that relegation from the Championship was saved for another day.

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The hail gave way to rain. Dark, angry clouds hung heavily above, symbolic of what has gone before in the Millers' season and what would go on to happen in this game.

Rotherham United fall 3-0 behind against Preston North End at Deepdale. Picture: Jim BrailsfordRotherham United fall 3-0 behind against Preston North End at Deepdale. Picture: Jim Brailsford
Rotherham United fall 3-0 behind against Preston North End at Deepdale. Picture: Jim Brailsford

After the dismal defeats at Coventry City and Norwich City came the no-show at Preston North End.

Yet again Leam Richardson's men conceded freely before the break, once more they put up little resistance in meek acceptance of their fate.

“I was very disappointed with the first half,” said the head coach of three and half months. “We know the moment that we're in. I knew what I was coming in to. The club is in transition and it's showing on and off the pitch.”

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An Easter fairground was open for business in the parkland across the road from the Lilywhites' home. A ghost train appeared to be doing brisk business but the real frights of the afternoon were provided by the visitors' defending.

Hakeem Odoffin battles in Rotherham United's cause at Preston North End. Picture: Jim BrailsfordHakeem Odoffin battles in Rotherham United's cause at Preston North End. Picture: Jim Brailsford
Hakeem Odoffin battles in Rotherham United's cause at Preston North End. Picture: Jim Brailsford

Goal one: A cross came in from Rotherham's left, Hakeem Odoffin failed to make a routine clearance, Sam Clucas blocked Mads Frokjaer's shot and the ball fell for Robbie Brady to set up Duane Holmes for an easy finish.

Goal two: Lee Peltier sold Ollie Rathbone short with a weak pass and North End zipped the ball to Emil Riis who drove it across Viktor Johansson and into the bottom corner.

Goal three: Peltier and Jamie Lindsay were deceived by a combination of Will Keane and Riis following another cross and Riis pounced again.

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“The individual errors. you've got to be better,” Richardson said. “You can't do that against a team like Preston. They have got seven or eight internationals.

“We're going around the country to top Championship teams. If you're not bang at it and you're not 100 per cent focused, it's a tough ride.

“At the minute, our confidence levels are very low. I'm sure it's been like that for most of the season. It's my job to put a team out there and try to give them an identity.

“It's frustrating because you're having to chop and change the team because of injuries. You do the best you can.”

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The result left the division's bottom club with ten losses in 11 matches, without a win in 2024 and with no goals in their last five outings.

Individual inadequacies, mental as well as physical, have led to a communal drop-off in application. Some players know their time under a new boss is coming to an end and what they're giving now is nowhere near Championship requirements.

Richardson ‘yanked’ the worst offender at the interval as he changed the formation and attempted to limit the damage.

“I was trying to take certain control of the game,” he said. “It wasn't anything individual. It could have been any of the 11, to be honest.”

He was being kind to Cafu.

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“At half-time, we had very short words together: that we can either go out with a whimper or we can do something about it and take a little bit of pride from it,” he added. “I thought we took a little bit of pride.”

He was being kind to his side.

The second half drifted away into a non-event. Play-off-chasing Preston eased up and saved themselves for tougher tests in their run-in, Rotherham had nothing with which to take advantage of the opposition's lull.

Odoffin messed up an acrobatic volley from point-blank range, Tom Eaves connected with something similar from further out but was off target and Femi Seriki somehow took the ball away from the net with a header when any kind of proper contact would have brought a goal.

With time almost up, Lindsay slammed the ball into the ground in protest at a refereeing decision. His Good Friday disagreement earned him a booking but at least here, finally, was someone in a Millers shirt showing some anger.

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Afterwards, Richardson fielded questions in a corner of the stadium near the players' tunnel under a still-brooding sky.

“You've got to call on your professionalism and your experience,” he said in answer to a query about how to approach the dying stages of a dead survival bid.

“We've got seven big games. We have to be mindful of how we look after each other and how we come through this moment together.”

The rain was falling again, prompting a pitchside photographer to recall the earlier hail.

“It came down so hard it actually hurt,” he said.

Not as much as Rotherham's performance did.

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Preston (3-4-1-2): Freddie Woodman; Jordan Storey (Jack Whatmough 61), Liam Lindsay, Andrew Hughes; Duane Holmes (Josh Seary 86), Alan Browne, Ali McCann (Noah Mawene 77), Robbie Brady (Kian Best 61); Mads Frokjaer; Will Keane (Layton Stewart 77), Emil Riis. Subs not used: Dai Cornell, Greg Cunningham, Ben Woodburn, Milutin Osmajic.

Rotherham (4-2-3-1): Viktor Johansson; Lee Peltier (Shane Ferguson 78), Hakeem Odoffin, Cameron Humphreys, Seb Revan (Femi Seriki, 86); Jamie Lindsay, Sam Clucas; Sam Nombe, Ollie Rathbone (Andy Rinomhota 68), Cafu (Cohen Bramall H-T); Charlie Wyke (Tom Eaves 68). Subs not used: Dillon Phillips, Arvin Appiah, Ben Hatton.

Goals: Holmes 22, Riis 37, 42 (Preston).

Referee: Stephen Martin (Staffordshire).

Attendance: 15,470.