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More of the same for perennially mid-table Preston - Oppo Profile
Thursday, 18th Apr 2024 14:03 by Clive Whittingham

A season that at times threatened to spiral into a managerial sacking, and at others hinted at a play-off push, has ended with Preston once again mid-table - Josh McLoughlin talks us through how North End can break this cycle.

How has the season been overall for Preston?

Very up and down. A great start to the season saw us top of the table in September, but a dire run over the winter months brought us back down to earth. We then turned it around from February onwards and suddenly the play-offs were in reach once again. But, as we always do in April, tools have been downed, the season has fizzled out, and we’ll be lucky to pick up another point. We’ll finish mid table again which is about right for where we are currently but it’s annoying that we never seem to push on when the opportunity is there.

PNE in the league so far…
Bristol City 1-1 Preston Bell 47 – Keane 86
Preston 2-1 Sunderland Keane 25, Frokjaer 59 – Clarke pen 31
Sheff Wed 0-1 Preston Lindsay 49
Preston 2-1 Swansea Hughes 67, Holmes 79 – Ashby 33
Stoke 0-2 Preston Keane pen 51, 57
Preston 2-1 Plymouth Holmes 1, Millar 25 – Hardie 61
Preston 2-1 Birmingham Bielik og 51, Osmajic 67 – Stansfield 46
Rotherham 1-1 Preston Hugill 35 – Lindsay 45
Preston 0-4 West Brom Furlong 4, Mowatt 29, Phillips 62, Bartley 87
Leicester 3-0 Preston Dewsbury-Hall 60, 90, Iheanacho 76
Ipswich 4-2 Preston Chaplin 18, Williams 35, Broadhead 45, Jackson 78 – Frokjaer 27, Whiteman 52
Preston 1-1 Millwall Frokjaer 3 – Flemming 30
Preston 2-2 Southampton Osmajic 52, Potts 55 – Walker-Peters 33, Evans og 90
Hull 1-0 Preston Philogene-Bidace 68
Preston 3-2 Coventry Holmes 38, Browne pen 41, Osmajic 78 – Wright 33, 82
Blackburn 1-2 Preston Szmodics 49 – Browne 35, Lindsay 90
Preston 1-2 Cardiff Osmajic 48 - Grant 90, Ugbo 90
Middlesbrough 4-0 Preston Jones 16, 37, Berg 26, Bangura 90
Preston 0-2 QPR Smyth 55, Willock 87
Norwich 0-0 Preston
Huddersfield 1-3 Preston Ward 54 – Browne 3, Keane 39, Whiteman 66
Preston 1-5 Watford Keane 27 – Bayo 42, 71, Martins 46, Kayembe 53, Kone 77
Swansea 2-1 Preston Paterson 60, 90 – Millar 67
Preston 2-1 Leeds Browne 57, Millar 89 – Struijk pen 83
Preston 0-1 Sheff Wed Johnson 27
Sunderland 2-0 Preston Pritchard 10, Rusyn 44
Preston 2-0 Bristol City Keane 65, 77
Leeds 2-1 Preston James 6, Piroe pen 90 – Keane 2
Millwall 1-1 Preston Flemming 5 – Potts 33
Preston 3-2 Ipswich Keane 5, 39, Edmundson og 8 – Moore 75, 87
Cardiff 0-2 Preston Riis 31, Whiteman 40
Preston 2-1 Boro Millar 23, Riis 60 – Azaz 57
Preston 2-2 Blackburn Brady 39, Riis 43 – Szmodics 7, Gallagher 23
Coventry 0-3 Preston Riis 1, Keane 20, Thomas og 38
Preston 0-0 Hull
Preston 1-2 Stoke Osmajic 68 – Hughes og 64, McNally 87
Plymouth 0-1 Preston Millar 43
Preston 3-0 Rotherham Holmes 22, Riis 37, 42
Birmingham 1-0 Preston Stansfield 68
Watford 0-0 Preston
Preston 4-1 Huddersfield Keane pen 53, Osmajic 84, 87, 90 – Koroma 42
Preston 0-1 Norwich Sara 86
Southampton 3-0 Preston Adams 19, 29, S Armstrong 33

You were very poor in the game against us in December and Ryan Lowe felt like he was on his last legs, what's been behind the significant turn around in the second half of the season?

For quite a while it did seem like Ryan Lowe was only one game away from the sack. He got the dreaded vote of confidence from the board just before Christmas and a Boxing Day victory over Leeds United was a much needed morale boost. But more poor results followed until a tactical change and the return of Emil Riis ignited a decent run. Riis forged a good partnership with Will Keane whilst Mads Frokjaer has been vital in that number ten role.

Where are you/fans in general on Lowe now because there seemed to be quite a bit of animosity flying in both directions when we last met but, like I say, second half of the season big turnaround...

There are still plenty who would be happy to see Ryan Lowe leave. In his two and a half years with us he’s led us to mid table each time which is a decent achievement considering our budget will be in the bottom eight of the league. Whenever he’s been on the brink he’s managed to go on a good run of form. I think he’s reached his ceiling though and I do believe other managers would have got more from this squad. He has a habit of rubbing up the fans the wrong way but I feel as if we are stuck with him for the foreseeable future.

What have been the stand out successes and failures from your transfer business this season?

It was a solid summer transfer window. Mads Frokjaer and Milutin Osmajic look like good purchases from abroad and should only get better after a season under their belt. Liam Millar was a great pick up on loan from Basel and it has to be a priority to sign him permanently in the summer. Will Keane was a bargain from Wigan Athletic and is our top scorer with 13 goals. Duane Holmes has been surprisingly good and Jack Whatmough has added depth to the defence.

Calvin Ramsay came in as cover for right wing back but the Liverpool loanee was rarely fit and returned in January. We didn’t bring in a replacement and an inevitable injury to Brad Potts has left us short.

Summer Ins >>> Milutin Osmajic, 24, CF, Cadiz, £2m >>> Mads Frokjaer-Jensen, 23, AM, Odense, £1m >>> Jack Whatmough, 26, CB, Wigan, Free >>> Duane Holmes, 28, AM, Huddersfield, Undisclosed >>> Will Keane, 30, CF, Wigan, Undisclosed >>> Layton Stewart, 20, CF, Liverpool, Undisclosed >>> Calvin Ramsay, 19, RB, Liverpool, Loan >>> Liam Miller, 23, LW, Basel, Loan

Summer Outs >>> Bambo Diaby, 25, CB, Sheff Wed, Undisclosed >>> Daniel Johnson, 30, CM, Stoke, Free >>> Josh Onomah, 26, CM, Released >>> Matthew Olosunde, 25, RB, Released >>> Mikey O’Neill, 19, CF, Southport, Loan >>> James Pradic, 18, GK, Bamber Bridge, Loan >>> Lewis Leigh, 19, CM, Bromley, Loan >>> Kit Nelson, 18, AM, Workington, Loan >>> Finlay Cross-Adair, 18, CF, Anan Athletic, Loan

Winter Ins >>> N/A

Winter Outs >>> Mikey O’Neill, 19, RW, Burnley, Undisclosed >>> Lewis Leigh, 20, CM, Crewe, Loan

Player of the year candidates?

Player of the year contenders are probably Liam Lindsay who’s been solid at the back throughout. Will Keane for his contributions at the top end of the pitch and maybe Liam Millar by far the most creative player in our squad.

Weak links in the team?

No specific weak links in the team but certainly more options needed for the wing-back areas. Robbie Brady’s career is dwindling and he has been relied on far to much many times out of position

Assuming there isn't a miracle run to the play offs from here, do you assess the season as a success or a missed opportunity?

Hard to say it’s a successful season, definitely feels like a missed opportunity. We don’t seem to progress from season to season. We’ve been in this league since 2015 and flirted with the play-offs a few times without having a sustained push. The fans need something as it is becoming a bit tiresome seeing the same pattern every season. Even a relegation fight would be a bit more exciting, providing we avoid it.

What do PNE need to do for next season to make that step towards the top six?

We need to be more consistent if we are to break the top six. It’s a tough league and this season the top four have been head and shoulders above the rest. The sides who come down from the Premier League next season probably won’t be as strong. We need to create more chances, our conversion rate is very good but they feed off scraps. Less thrashings as well because when we lose we lose badly.

Links >>> Preston Official Website >>> Lancashire Telegraph — Local Press >>> From The Finney — Blog >>> Deepdale Digest — Blog >>> PNE Online — Forum

The Twitter @loftforwords, @Josh_McLoughlin

Pictures — Action Images

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francisbowles added 10:55 - Apr 20
Thank you Josh and Clive. Josh be careful what you wish for!😫

TacticalR added 15:19 - Apr 20
Thanks to Josh.

Agree with francisbowles. After two seasons fighting relegation we are dreaming of mediocrity! Seriously though, with the ex-Premier League clubs hogging the play-off spots there doesn't seem much room to manoeuvre for teams on a modest budget like Preston.

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