Hello all and welcome back to another preview. We head up to Preston tomorrow with the mood amongst the supporters the lowest I can remember in an awfully long time. The full details of Ron Gourlay’s frightful ineptitude have emerged in some senses of the media, with right hand man Brian Tevrenden leaving the club fuelling more questions than ever about the current state of affairs at boardroom level. It seems like the heart of the club is being ripped out more and more with each week and each abject performance we have seen. Now, you certainly cannot pin the blame for the players disgraceful performances solely on Gourlay and the rest of the depleted hierarchy, but it certainly cannot help the mood in the group. So, with that all said and done, things can realistically only get better – can’t they?
As for our opponents this weekend, we face Preston North End. Another team who have had a far from convincing start to the season, they sit five places above us in 19th place. Aside from a 2-0 victory away at Leeds United in the EFL Cup with 10 men, no results have really stood out as being particularly exceptional. They’re without a win since the opening day of the season, having picked up maximum points against QPR. Straight forward victories for Swansea, Norwich and Derby have followed alongside draws against Bolton and Stoke. Whether Preston will be looking for anything above a mid table finish this year depends on who you ask I suppose, but I don’t think they have a squad capable of making too much of an impression towards the business end of the table. To add to what I perceive as a lack of real quality in the starting XI they will be without two of their midfielders likely to have started through suspension. One of these Ben Pearson I think is the sort of player who could really cause us trouble given the lack of quality we have in the middle of the park. Ryan Ledson is the other player out for tomorrow’s game. One player who we will certainly have to keep an eye on is Tom Barkhuizen, who has scored more goals against us than any other team in the league – so I hope you’re as excited as I am to see him get his name on the scoresheet in the 16th minute (I am sorry in advance if this comes true.) Although I don’t see a huge amount of quality in the ranks, I think Preston along with probably 23 other teams in this division won’t find a visit from Reading as a particularly daunting prospect.
As for the man in charge at Preston, we have Scottish Hardman Alex Neil. I think he is a manager who although is not the most glamorous of names who plays a Manchester City-esque for of total football, he is a very safe pair of hands. Having impressed at Hamilton in his first managerial job, he took over at Norwich and managed to get the Canaries 17 wins out of 25 games to get them into the playoffs and then subsequently the Premiership. Although relegation followed the following season, I think Neil has showed his pedigree as a good young coach. Having said this, I think his recruitment of players does need some work. He cited poor recruitment as a reason for Norwich’s poor performance in the top tier and for whatever reason I don’t believe he’s particularly shone in this regard at Preston either. On the pitch however his side at Preston has been consistent at worst, with a win rate of just over 40%. Will he pick another up against Reading this weekend? I’ll let you all make up your mind, but I think it’s clear how I see this game going.
My prediction for this one shockingly isn’t a conclusive away victory. The morale amongst players seems so low and supporters seem more reluctant to back them than ever previously. Preston is a very tough place to go and like Blackburn, probably will feel a long way from home for the players and the brave few supporters planning on making the trip up to Lancashire. Something surely needs change for results to change and the only changes we have seen since the latest embarrassing performance is the turmoil at the top of the club. Players seem dejected, fans seem to be turning to the point of anger and the board seem hell bent on making things worse. I have a bad feeling it’ll be a very easy afternoon for Preston. I’m going with a 3-0 defeat.