Preston North End’s push for promotion got off to a disastrous start after a heavy defeat at home to Colchester.
The result left fans with more questions than answers as a shaky defence conceded four on a day where Colchester United could have scored more.
Optimism filled Deepdale prior to kick off which was fuelled with the return of two fan favourites.
Neil Mellor returned after last season’s loan to Sheffield Wednesday to large cheers but they were nothing compared to the reception given to former club captain Graham Alexander; the 39-year-old rejoined after four years at Burnley.
North End got off to a good start, putting pressure on Colchester as they closed them down quickly.
However that changed after 12 minutes when Anthony Wordsworth was left unmarked to slot past Iain Turner from six yards to put the visitors 1-0 up.
Neither side was able to create any clear cut chances in the rest of the first half as the goal left PNE shell-shocked.
Four minutes into the second half and it got worse for the home side.
A clearance from Colchester keeper Mark Cousins wasn’t dealt with and Ian Henderson latched on to a lofted pass to round Turner and make it two.
North End looked for a quick response, and Paul Parry’s free kick from 20 yards was tipped round the post by Cousins.
On the hour mark PNE got one back as Mellor was left unmarked to collect a pass from Alexander and put it past Cousin from 12 yards.
The goal lifted the crowd but it was not for long as five minutes later Colchester restored their two goal lead. Another long ball caused chaos in the North End defence as Kayode Odejayi’s flick-on was picked up by Henderson, who beat the onrushing Turner from 20 yards to make it 3-1.
Five minutes later, PNE pulled another back thanks to a great solo-effort by Paul Coutts.
The midfielder picked the ball up 40 yards from goal before ghosting past four Colchester defenders and powering home from 15 yards to give the home side renewed hope.
But Colchester ended a frantic 15 minute goal-fest as Odejayi poked home from three yards following a goalmouth scramble.
Brown was furious with his side’s defending after the game, describing the errors as “schoolboy.”
“The four goals that we conceded are just not acceptable behaviour, never mind defending. It has severely let us down,” he said.
“You wouldn’t accept or believe those mistakes if you had seen them in a schoolboy gamevand yet seasoned professionals have made them.”
Read what David Stubbings saw from the stands as Phil Brown’s men failed to get off to a winning start:
Preston North End
21 Iain Turner
5 Clarke Carlisle
6 Craig Morgan
7 Iain Hume (c)
8 Paul Coutts
9 Jamie Proctor
10 Barry Nicholson
12 Brian McLean
17 Paul Parry
22 Graham Alexander
33 Neil Mellor
Substitues: 15 Adam Barton, 16 Danny
Mayor, 18 Daniel Devine, 24 Seanan Clucas,
25 Andreas Arestidou
12 Mark Cousins
3 Michael Rose
4 Magnus Okuonghae
6 Matt Heath
7 Ashley Vincent
8 John-Joe O’Toole
10 Kem Izzet (c)
15 Kayode Odejayi
16 Ian Henderson
20 Brian Wilson
22 Anthony Wordsworth
Substitutes: 5 Pat Baldwin, 9 Steven
Gillespie, 23 Lloyd James, 24 Ben Coker, 25
Referee: Mr C Pawson
Live text commentary brought to you in partnership with Pluto, the student newspaper at the University of Central Lancashire.