Please log in or register. Registered visitors get fewer ads.
Opposition Preview - Preston North End (Away)
Written by ad_wilkin on Friday, 2nd Feb 2024 09:38

It’s a return to league action and a much-needed chance to bounce back from an embarrassing FA Cup exit on Saturday. Town didn’t play too badly and had enough chances to win four or five games but were undone twice on the counter by some clinical Maidstone finishes.

The chance to regroup comes against a Preston North End team who have tumbled down the table having been sat very close to the summit of the table when these teams last met.

They’ve only won three times since November, although one of those was an excellent victory against Leeds, which shows the quality they have on their day.

Previous meeting (Ipswich 4-2 Preston)

A 4-2 thriller at Portman Road saw Town take a 3-1 lead into half-time with goals from Conor Chaplin, Nathan Broadhead and a fine sole run and finish from Brandon Williams, before Preston caused a scare bringing it back to 3-2 in the second half.

Once again, substitutions were important and Kayden Jackson wrapped up the three points in the 78th minute.

It was a professional performance from a dominant Town side as they finished with 16 shots, 10 of which were on target.

Town opened the scoring early on from a trademark corner routine. Leif Davis delivered a low ball to the edge of the box, from where Chaplin was waiting to sweep in with a tidy left foot finish.

It wasn’t long before it was 1-1. Town were undone by a ball over the top which eventually bounced kindly for Mads Frokjaer Jensen to slot past onrushing goalkeeper Vaclav Hladky.

Then came the highlight of the match. Williams nipped in to win the ball in his own half before driving up the pitch as Preston players parted like the Red Sea, a drop of the shoulder and a pinpoint finish past Freddie Woodman put Town back in front in what looked like the moment that could kickstart Williams's career in a Town shirt.

The Blues went further ahead following the second phase of a corner. Davis stayed down the right hand side and delivered an excellent ball into the box which was met by the head of Cameron Burgess. His looped header looked to have gone too far but George Hirst was there with a very clever flick back to give Nathan Broadhead the easy job of poking the ball into an empty net from a couple of yards out.

Preston pulled one back after Burgess headed away a deep free-kick to the edge of the box. It was scrappily hooked back in, bounced off Burgess again before falling nicely to Ben Whiteman, who side-footed a well-placed shot in off the post.

Town could have sat deep at that point but instead pushed forward to restore the two-goal lead. Marcus Harness found Jack Taylor, who drove inside to allow Omari Hutchinson to make the overlapping run, and with Preston defenders stretched, it was a simple ball across to Jackson that allowed Town to wrap up the win and make it 4-2.

Key Players

Liam Millar

The Canadian, on loan from FC Basel has started to find his feet in the Championship and tends to be a big out ball for Preston.

His ability to keep the ball and dribble at players as well as being able to deliver with both feet has seen him make six goal contributions (four assists, two goals) in his last nine games, including a goal and an assist in the win against Leeds at Deepdale and another assist in a game Preston were unlucky to lose at Elland Road.

He came on at half-time in the first meeting between these sides and again was a handful with his dribbling, movement and willingness to attack the full-back.

Will Keane

The former Town frontman was dropped for the first meeting between these sides and didn’t get many minutes on the pitch. Now, he’s back in the side and has been getting back on the scoresheet.

He had a purple patch at the beginning of the season with goals against Bristol City, Sunderland and a double against Stoke before going quiet for a long period but a double against Bristol City again and Leeds means he has three goals in his last three and is likely to lead the line in this one.

Mads Frokjaer Jensen

The 24-year-old Dane was Preston’s marquee signing in the summer. He got on the scoresheet at Portman Road and in the following match against Millwall, but probably hasn’t had quite the impact that North End fans would have hoped for.

He’s dropped a bit deeper into a midfield three in recent games and it seems to be bringing the best out of him by allowing him to get on the ball more.

He’s able to dribble more, complete more passes and against Sunderland had four shots on target and the most touches he’s had in a game all season.

He assisted Brad Potts in the last game against Millwall with a lovely through ball from deep into the right-hand channel and that new role really seems to be getting the best out of him.

What’s Changed?

In short, not a lot. Manager Ryan Lowe has been under a bit of pressure given their drop off from the lofty position they occupied at the start of the season, but no moves have been made to replace him despite murmurs of discontent from some Preston fans.

On the transfer front, Preston don’t have much money to operate with in the market and as such haven’t made any signings at all to date.

They have lost Calvin Ramsay, who has been recalled by Liverpool having struggled with injuries and only played two games for North End. He’s been subsequently sent out on loan again to Bolton in League One.

There’s not even been that much rotation in the starting XI. Former Town keeper Dai Cornell came in against Leeds with Freddie Woodman missing through sickness, but the stopper has recovered and came back into the side against Millwall.

They still lack goals. Keane leads the way on nine with Alan Browne and Milutin Osmajic joint-second with four each.

The back five remains as a solid foundation that Lowe likes to build on, with Liam Lindsay being central to that as well as providing an aerial threat from set pieces (he has three goals this season).

At the top of the pitch, Lowe has gone with two attacking midfielders behind one striker a lot of the time but in a hope to change things and get better results he went with two up front against Leeds with Emil Riis, who is just returning from a long-term injury partnering Keane at the top of the pitch. That front two featured for the second time against Millwall and looks set to stay.

New Signing Alert

Town finally have a striker with Ali Al Hamadi joining from AFC Wimbledon. His Iraq side were knocked out of the Asian Cup on the day that he signed, so it’s plausible that he could be in the squad against Preston, although maybe not from the start.

Here’s what I wrote about him when I was looking into potential January signings.

The 21-year-old Iraqi is lighting up League Two having made the move to AFC Wimbledon from Wycombe in January 2023 and has now scored 24 goals in 44 appearances for the Dons.

He began his career with Tranmere but then spent the majority of his youth development at Swansea, failing to make the breakthrough before being release.

He was picked up by Wycombe but also struggled for game time there before finally finding a home at Town’s recent FA Cup third round opponent.

If he was signed he would be more of a direct Freddie Ladapo replacement, he is strong and can hold the ball up but a lot of his goals come from his poacher instinct, with good movement in the box to tuck away the finishes.

He’s also adept at running off the shoulder of defenders to get in behind. It would be more of a gamble to sign him than some other but again he fits the sort of profile that Kieran McKenna would look for, although it remains to be seen whether he could make the step up two divisions.

The Teams

Barring injuries the back five of Vaclav Hladky, Harry Clarke, Luke Woolfenden, George Edmundson and Leif Davis picks itself.

In midfield, Sam Morsy is back from his league suspension and you’d imagine Massimo Luongo will partner him.

The biggest question marks are in the frontline. Nathan Broadhead seems low on confidence and the striker experiment failed with him barely getting a touch against Maidstone in the FA Cup.

He was also dipped out of the team against Leicester in favour of Marcus Harness and Jeremy Sarmiento’s form could also see him struggling to get into the team if he doesn’t find form soon.

All of that means I think he’ll have to settle for a place on the bench this time with Wes Burns, Conor Chaplin and Sarmiento playing behind Kayden Jackson.

Deadline day signing Kieffer Moore is likely to make the bench if he makes the squad at all.

Preston are also likely to be fairly unchanged from the 1-1 draw with Millwall. Woodman should start in goal with a back three of Storey, Lindsay and Hughes. Brad Potts will be right-wing back and Millar should start on the left.

Whiteman and Frokjaer Jensen should make up two of the three in the middle of the pitch.

Ryan Ledson started with them in the last game, but Alan Browne could come in to replace him if he doesn’t make a surprise move to Salernitana on deadline day and would make his 400th appearance if he did so.

The front two against Millwall was Keane and Riis but with Riis just coming back from injury, Osmajic could come in. With a week's gap between games I'm going for Riis to start again in this one.

Action Areas

As mentioned previously, Millar is Preston’s star man at the moment, however, he’s being played out of position at wing-back to fit into the formation.

He is still having an impact there but it also leaves him a lot to do and could leave Preston exposed to the pace of Burns down their left-hand side.

What it does do however is it gives them a lot of bodies centrally and Morsy will have to keep an eye on Frokjaer Jensen in his new deeper role, if he plays there.

Keane will also likely look to drop deep to get on the ball but Woolfenden has been excellent on the cover recently and will back himself to deal with him.

Preston are likely to sit deep and try and counter like they did against Leeds, so getting the early goal will be crucial. They certainly shouldn’t be underestimated despite their league position and showed plenty of fight and desire in both matches that I watched them play against Leeds.

They’ll be hoping to put a dent in another promotion chargers' campaign and it will be a tough game.

Despite that, I think Town have enough about them to win this. After an indifferent run of form, three points would be a welcome boost and this is a side that is always good at bouncing back after tough defeats. I’m going 2-1 to Town.

Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.
You need to login in order to post your comments

Blogs 295 bloggers

About Us Contact Us Terms & Conditions Privacy Cookies Advertising
© TWTD 1995-2024