|Ipswich Town 1 v 1 Preston North End|
Saturday, 3rd November 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Have Faith My Friends, It Usually Works Wonders - Notes for Preston
Friday, 2nd Nov 2018 10:00 by HarryFromBath
HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s game at Portman Road by delving into their forums.
“The season is just beginning to come together for us and simply being out of the relegation places is a massive relief, but there is a lot more work to do”, “An unbeaten month from a team rock-bottom at the start of October really is quite an achievement”, “Another match undefeated, another point.”
Preston arrive in Suffolk sitting 20th in the table and only two points from the relegation places, but a five-game unbeaten run, including wins over Brentford and Wigan as well as a draw at Villa Park, has given Lilywhites hope that their league campaign has finally gained traction after a faltering start.
“We took five points from our first nine games, but we have taken nine points and are unbeaten in the last five games”, “There will be three worse teams than us this season, but not many more than that”, “For me our squad is comfortably mid-table, but it’s going to be anything but comfortable.”
“We don’t half make it hard for ourselves”, “We can attack but that defence really worries me”, “We have not become a bad team overnight and can score goals. Keep it tight and we will be okay”, “It’s going to be small steps to build this season up. We lack physicality and also have little experience.”
“I don’t think we’ll go down but we’re a couple of injuries away from a serious relegation battle if key positions aren’t strengthened in January”, “We have what we have until January, but I fear all our good work in the last few seasons will be for nothing if we don’t bring more quality in then.”
“Alex has his faults, but the hand dealt to him isn’t the best this season. He has a tough job on his hands. Our seven summer signings had four Championship appearances between them”, “He calls things exactly as he sees them. He doesn’t whinge about injuries and gives credit to travelling fans.”
The 37-year-old former Norwich manager replaced Simon Grayson in July 2017 and steered the side to a seventh-place finish in his first season in charge at Deepdale. Fans have welcomed the brand of “chest out, battling” football and the “great team-spirit and work ethic” he has brought to the side.
“The biggest problem has been his constant chopping and changing of the side”, “He has been trying to find something that would step us from getting tonked every week while dealing with injuries to key players. He is also bedding in inexperienced players who will need a full season to acclimatise.”
“I’m still not convinced by Alex Neil. I hope to God he proves me wrong but I don’t feel right about him”, “I have seen him berate players, it’s not clever as it hits their confidence”, “Man-management is not bawling, screaming and kicking bottles on the sidelines, especially with such a young team.”
“He still hasn’t got us organised defensively”, “He’s not the most tactically astute manager nor is he the best man-manager, but he should be given credit for giving it a go when the chips are down. In contrast Grayson was ultra-cautious and we were beaten in some games before going on the pitch.”
High-Pressing, High-Intensity Football
“We play a high-pressing game. We use our pace to compress teams, forcing errors and turnovers in possession in the final third. We have a nice passing game but at the start of the season we got into the habit of playing in front of teams. They sat back, happy to let us do so as it didn’t hurt them.”
“Dress it up how you want, but we have conceded 29 goals, the worst in the Championship by some distance. If we continue this form it will inevitably end badly”, “We look so panicky when balls come into the box, and they do so regularly because we often look completely vulnerable in wide areas.”
“Our best form of defence is going to have to be attack, but as we have seen, that is something we can be quite good at”, “Get our defence in order and we are well capable at the other end”, “If we set out with attacking intent, we know that our strikers and wide players are capable of scoring.”
“Our strongest formation is 4-2-3-1 so it’s unlikely that Alex Neil will switch from this.” The starting XI (above) for the 1-1 home draw with Rotherham was unchanged in midfield and attack, but centre-half Tom Clarke started on the right of the back four with Darnell Fisher struggling for confidence.
“Can we just have two games with the same defence please?” This was the latest combination tried by Neil in his quest for the right balance. Keeper Chris Maxwell has been an effective sweeper with his mobility while left-back Andrew Hughes has made a steady start in his first Championship season.
“The gap in age and experience feels too large at the back. Paul Huntington and Tom Clarke are both starting to look a bit past it, but Ben Davies and Jordan Storey lack experience.” The centre and right of the back four have been undone regularly by poor pace, concentration and defensive mistakes.
“The 4-2-3-1 allows us to play Ben Pearson, Daniel Johnson and Alan Browne in roles that suit them”, “Pearson wins the ball and Johnson moves it forward at pace with sharp passing or quick movement. Browne presses and harries high up the field, attacking the penalty area more like a second striker.”
Pearson has played a combative holding role in midfield, while Johnson has operated as a deep-lying playmaker using the extra space to pass incisively or dart forward to link with the attacking quartet. Pearson’s energetic pressing and willingness to attack balls in the box are vital to the team’s style.
Playmaker Josh Harrop is a long-term absentee with a knee injury. Out wide, Tom Barkhuizen has missed the focal point of departed striker Jordan Hugill this year, while in contrast the energy link-up play and finishing of Callum Robinson have made him one of their most dangerous attacking threats.
Sean Maguire has been a substitute lately as he has recovered from a hamstring injury. His finishing and movement close to goal have been missed. Teenager Lukas Nmecha has yet to score but his link-up play has made the attack more potent. Louis Moult has scored some vital goals as a replacement.
Preston 1 – 1 Rotherham
“That was a frustrating, flat sort of game. We didn’t deserve anything from that. Rotherham were decent and we were sloppy”, “A draw against a spirited and well-organised Rotherham team isn’t that bad”, “To be charitable, it was two poor teams trying to play football and failing miserably.”
“Credit to Rotherham, they had a game plan and executed it very well.” Tom Barkhuizen headed the hosts a 1-0 lead just before the interval from Callum Robinson's corner, but the Millers fought back strongly after the break and levelled on 55 from Michael Smith's fierce strike into the top corner.
“Rotherham were right in our faces as soon as we got the ball and made it very difficult for us to be productive”, “They had more energy than us and earned their point through nothing more than hard work”, “A poor performance and a poor display overall”, “We were really dire in the second half.”
Preston 4 - 3 Brentford
“Valium, anyone?”, “That was nerve-wracking. It’s not often you are three-up and thinking you will need another one. Not often either that you get a fourth and still feel nervous”, “I enjoyed the game tonight even though I thought it was like Russian roulette”, “It’s no bloody wonder I’m going grey.”
Alan Browne poked home from close range on five minutes to put Preston ahead before Callum Robinson's half-volley doubled their lead seven minutes later. Tom Barkhuizen's goal on 23, from a deflected indirect freekick, put the Lilywhites in complete control before the visitors rallied.
Sergi Canos and Ollie Watkins pulled goals back for the Bees on 29 and 56 minutes respectively but a second strike from Robinson on 69 extended Preston’s lead once more. Neal Maupay's goal for the visitors after 85 proved nothing more than a final consolation. “This team will be the death of me.”
“Fair play to Brentford. They came to play football but this was to their detriment as they are not as good as they think they are. Playing out of defence no matter what caused them big issues”, “They looked dangerous every time they attacked, which was often. We capitalised on their mistakes.”
“We have the worst defence in the Championship at the moment.” Brentford targeted right-back Darnell Fisher who was dropped for the subsequent Rotherham game. Two of the Bees’ three goals originated down the Lilywhites’ right flank. “Our defence is atrocious, it always carries a weakness.”
Hull 1 – 1 Preston
“We are out of the bottom three with a good point away at Hull but in reality, that was awful. Not breathtakingly awful, but awful nonetheless”, “We struggled to do the basics like control and move the ball and we never looked for the ball”, “I was happy with a point. We were really very poor.”
“I will take that point gladly.” Hull were left to rue a string of missed chances after Louis Moult fired in a second-half stoppage-time goal to give Preston a point. Jarrod Bowen put the hosts ahead from the penalty spot on 85 minutes after Preston centre-back Storey brought down Chris Martin.
“This is awful, we could be five or six down”, “We deserved to get stuffed, make no mistake”, “We played good attacking football but didn’t look like scoring. Sean Maguire and Lukas Nmecha were too close together”, “Play like this for the rest of the season and I fear for our Championship status.”
“We played well with some decent approach play but our end product was indecisive.” Injuries to defender Tom Clarke, wingers Tom Barkhuizen and Callum Robinson along with the suspension of midfielder Ben Pearson forced Alex Neil to play a number of fringe players in the starting XI (above).
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Chris Maxwell is a more than capable keeper.” The 28-year-old ex-Fleetwood man “does make the odd howler but I prefer his style of keeping. He’s like a 12th man playing two positions and gives the defence more confidence”, “I do like the way he always tries to cover the whole of his penalty area.”
Chris Maxwell saves a penalty against Aston Villa
“Maxwell’s natural game is as a sweeper-keeper, he commands his box and distributes the ball well”, “If you want to press higher, having a keeper like him lets the defence push a few yards higher”, “He has been top drawer since he came back into the team. He’s quick off his line and makes vital saves.”
“Andrew Hughes has been solid at left-back.” The 26-year-old June acquisition from Peterborough is a replacement for Greg Cunningham who left this summer for Premier League Cardiff. “An assured defender who does the simple things well. He’s never in trouble and never puts us under pressure.”
“Hughes seems a steady player but he offers very little in an attacking sense”, “This will improve as he gets used to how we play. He’s a good tackler and quick enough. He has a bit of height on him and is happy to get forward”. “The time to judge him will be when we have a settled defensive unit.”
“What has happened to Darnell Fisher this season?” The 24-year-old former Rotherham right-back “is an absolute liability. He was pretty awful against Brentford but his cross set up our second goal”, “He goes flying into challenges or completely standing off players. Teams have been targeting him.”
Bersant Celina v Darnell Fisher
“Fisher set up our goal at Hull and got an assist at Sheffield United. He has his limitations but offers an outlet on the right. It unbalances us when he’s not playing”, “He has not looked great in one-on-ones and looks low on confidence”, “The way Alex Neil berates him on the touchline won’t help him.”
“I’m not a fan of Tom Clarke playing at right-back, but it was a good decision against Rotherham.” The 30-year-old ex-Huddersfield man “was aimlessly hooking the ball in the general direction of our forwards. He was incapable of five-yard passes. We have no threat down the right with him there.”
“Clarke is a bit over-aggressive but provides leadership with his strong character”, “He’s stronger and taller than Fisher and less likely to lose concentration, but never appears comfortable with the ball at his feet and struggles against pace”, “He’s a good organiser who can add some leadership.”
“Jordan Storey has looked okay. He has played it very simply, making no risky passes or bringing it out of defence.” The 21-year-old centre-half arrived in June from Exeter. “His positioning is good and he doesn’t mess around with the ball when clearing it, doing his job without any fuss or nonsense.”
“Storey has brilliant positioning and turn of pace”, “He has the pace to defend the space behind him. His defensive strength is his coolness on the ball and ability to play it out of defence”, “He’s calm on the ball, but those fans thinking he’s a natural ball-playing centre-half will find out that he’s not.”
“Ben Davies is very comfortable on the ball.” The 23-year-old youth product “will be a top centre-half but there are too many lapses in concentration for him to be considered a class act”, “He gets beaten in the air and struggles against big strikers, but his passing and tackling are top quality.”
“It has been a strange one. Davies has played very well and looked the most assured defender, but he has been responsible for a fair number of goals we have conceded, not through mistakes but from poor positioning, switching off or getting caught out. He’s still my first pick on current form, though.”
“Huntington, bless his cotton socks, is past his sell-by date.” The 31-year-old former Yeovil centre-back “will always do well in the air and makes brilliant blocks and tackles, but anything on the floor and he has been a bomb-scare this year. He improved last season but has now regressed massively.”
Grant Ward v Paul Huntington
“Huntington is still a really good defender but his distribution has always been appalling. He seems to have lost confidence and isn’t organising and encouraging as he has done in the past”, “He used to be such a calm head but this season he is flapping at everything, slicing the ball every which way.”
“I would view Ryan Ledson as a squad player.” The 21-year-old summer signing from Oxford “has flattered to deceive a bit, being neat and tidy without doing anything else. He needs time to adjust to the pace of this level”, “A creative player who is calm on the ball but has struggled at this level.”
“Ledson passes the ball with purpose and accuracy but is a bit lightweight when the pressure is on”, “He looks cumbersome and possibly needs to slim down because he’s still off the pace at this level and gives the ball away carelessly”, “He does need to lose a few pounds and gain a bit more agility.”
“I’m a huge fan of Paul Gallagher but his best days may be now behind him.” The 34-year-old former Blackburn and Leicester man “is fabulous when a gorgeous floaty pass is needed but boy is he weak when he needs to be robust. Opposition players are given the freedom of the centre of the pitch.”
“Gallagher hasn’t got the legs to play as a winger any more in Neil’s system”, “He can’t put in a shift as he used to, and he was never a hard-working type in the first place”, “He struggles to complete a full 90 minutes these days and is a decent option off the bench to give us some extra composure.”
“Without Ben Pearson we are lightweight and hesitant.” The 23-year-old Manchester United youth product had a successful spell on loan at Barnsley in 2015/16 before switching to Deepdale. “He’s an aggressive holding midfielder who makes key tackles and interceptions, passing the ball on simply.”
Ben Pearson v Joe Garner
“We expect Pearson to run the show and he usually does, but five yellow cards and one red card by the first week of October is ridiculous”, “You can’t take the aggression out of his game”, “He eats up space in central midfield, covering a massive amount of ground and nullifying opposition threats.”
“Daniel Johnson tries to make things happen.” The 26-year-old ex-Aston Villa youth product “adds so much to our attacking play with probing passes with his lethal left foot. He bursts forward brilliantly but is poor defensively. He doesn’t fly into tackles and gets snuffed out in ‘in-your-face’ contests.”
“Johnson is a deep-lying playmaker who can boss the midfield, but when he isn’t firing with the ball, he does next-to-nothing without it”, “He’s one of our quickest players off the mark and he can leave a man for dead”, “He tries to pick passes and find gaps often in tight spaces with his lightning feet.”
“Browne plays with heart and gives us so much energy.” The 23-year-old ex-Cork City youth product “puts a shift in and never hides, a versatile player who gives us tremendous flexibility if we need to switch things around”, “He was really off the pace against Rotherham after three games in a week.”
Forest's Nicklas Bendtner v Alan Browne
“Browne doesn’t play like a usual number 10. He’s like a second striker who arrives late in the box to get his head on the ball. He presses and chases defenders, getting on the end of balls in the box”, “I like him attacking the box. He has the legs to pass defences or to drop back to support the midfield.”
Wide Midfielders and Wingers
“Brandon Barker is a very direct winger and always looks to drive in on goal.” The 22-year-old loan signing from Manchester City “has good pace and control, and is good with both feet”, “He’s a real handful who plays on the left. He is lightning quick and direct, and is good at playing team-mates in.”
“We know that Barker can make an impact off the bench, but so far he has been disappointing when starting games. He has the pace but no end product, and he doesn’t protect his full-back”, “His form is typical for a winger, but when he’s in the mood he’s unstoppable and he just strolls past people.”
Tom Barkhuizen v Neil Etheridge and Joe Ralls (Cardiff City)
“Tom Barkhuizen is not perfect but he can be an awkward pacy opponent.” The 25-year-old former Blackpool and Morecambe man “does exactly what his manager wants him to do defensively when a full-back overcommits. He’s not the best technical player but will always get you goals and assists.”
“Barkhuizen seems to be a massive confidence player. He’s just a runner when he has a poor game”, “He is worth his place when he’s scoring goals but he can be nondescript. He has suffered the most since [striker] Jordan Hugill left in January and the team has lost the physical focal point he needs.”
“Robinson is having a coming-of-age season.” The 23-year-old former Aston Villa man “is absolutely on fire. He is brave on the ball and so dangerous from a narrow-left position”, “He has looked such a threatening player but can be far too casual, dwelling on the ball and losing possession too cheaply.”
Callum Robinson v Toumani Diagouraga
“I would be surprised if Robinson doesn’t finish the season with 20 goals. His work-rate is fantastic and his composure in front of goal is vastly improved”, “His decision-making is improving and he’s so much stronger and faster”, “His pace, power, strength and terrific link-up play have finally clicked.”
“Bring on Louis Moult if we need to nick a goal.” The 26-year-old former Motherwell man “makes a positive impact off the bench with his routine of nice flicks, good control and constant pressing of centre-backs”, “He doesn’t have the pace to play in behind defences and isn’t a natural lone striker.”
“Moult has the movement and ball control to make a yard for himself. He’s a dangerous finisher in the box”, “He took the late equaliser at Hull well with a proper poacher’s instinct”, “He’s a brilliant finisher and his link-up play is good, but he needs a strike partner to capitalise on either strength.”
“The blossoming of Lukas Nmecha has meant that Maguire may not rejoin the side straight away.” The 19-year-old Manchester City loanee “has the pace, power and dribbling skill to be a lone striker. He’s the only physical presence we have up front and he is creating panic in opposition defences.”
“Lukas has no energy at all against Rotherham, three game is a week were probably too much”, “He is turning into the target man we all hoped for, creating chances and winning freekicks with his hard work and quality”, “He is so good when we play the ball into his feet, all he is missing now is a goal.”
“We have been scoring plenty without Maguire, so it’s great that we can afford to ease him back in.” The 24-year-old ex-Cork City striker has played as a substitute in the last two games returning from a hamstring injury. “His fitness can’t be guaranteed, he’ll miss a quarter of the season through injury.”
Sean Maguire celebrates with Callum Robinson (Preston North End)
“Maguire has the strength to hold opponents off but he lacks the height to play that hold-up striker’s role”, “He’s twice the player through the centre than he has looked out wide”, “The most composed finisher at the club, he’s good around the six-yard box but Hugill was better when attacking crosses.”
Lilywhites’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“We go to Ipswich next, now that's a basket case of a club this season!”, “Beating Ipswich next week is a must.” The vast majority of Lilywhites have forecast an away win in their prediction leagues, with many expecting their team to score three or more goals.
That said, they are not happy to see our change of manager. “I was rather hoping that the sacking of Paul Hurst would have happened after our win there next week. Paul Lambert has replaced him”, “I always felt that the Ipswich job was too big for Hurst”, “Can we loan David Nugent for one game?”
“The BBC said that the club's four highest scorers last season all left as part of wholesale changes to the squad. They were replaced largely by players who spent last season in Leagues One and Two, who were unable to adapt to the higher level fast enough to save Hurst's job. Surprise, surprise.”
The busiest Preston forum is the friendly and very knowledgeable PNE Online. Preston highlights are available on the Multimedia menu as well as Ipswich Town and for the whole of the Championship and other EFL leagues.
Photo: Action Images
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