PNE trying to make sense of stark home and away form - Interview
Tuesday, 20th Oct 2020 19:05 by Clive Whittingham
Preston have lost three league games at home without scoring, while giving Norwich, Derby and Brentford a good going over on the road. Here to make sense of it are Deepdale Digest and Jake at the From the Finney Podcast.
How did last season go for PNE?
DD: We started so well and went top of the league in November, but couldn't hang on to a top six place, never mind anything else. The addition of Scott Sinclair couldn't secure a playoff spot, and the season somewhat faded with a whimper. A campaign that showed so much promise ended in disappointment – as it so often does with Preston.
FF: On the whole, it was positive. Lockdown killed us, really.
How is Alex Neil doing? Regularly gets linked with other jobs but the PNE social media opinion seems mixed.
DD: I'm personally a big Alex Neil fan. He has worked wonders on a budget, he has lost key players without having considerable funds to reinvest and still continues to make Preston competitive in the playoff race. He is a talented young manager that will likely have a future at a higher level than North End can offer, which is why he is so regularly in-demand, and yet some of ours fans think he is to blame for us not being in the top six. It's baffling to me, given the quality of players he has lost in his three years at Deepdale.
FF: For me, just fine. For now at least. We have one of the most reactionary fan bases I’ve ever come across and that’s no exaggeration.
How have you started?
DD: Patchy, to say the least. Three straight 1-0 home defeats to Swansea City, Stoke City and Cardiff City, but strong away showings at Norwich City and Brentford - two of the promotion favourites. Question marks over Daniel Johnson’s future and then an injury have hurt us, but the second half showing at Brentford shows there’s quality in us - it’s just finding it consistently.
FF: It’s been very “meh” so far. However, we have really struggled at home but have looked really good away. See the 4-2 win over Brentford, the performance and the result away at Norwich or the come back win against Derby County at Pride Park in the cup.
Pretty stark difference between the away results/goals and those at home, why is that?
DD: I think we just have a big problem breaking teams down, especially without Johnson’s guile. Away from home we can be a nuisance to break down and aren’t expect to have lots of the ball and break teams down, but at home we struggle with that expected impetus.
FF: We spoke a bit about this on this week’s episode of the From the Finney podcast and I think it’s the lack of a home crowd that is affecting us.
Preston league results so far…
How did the summer transfer window end up for you overall?
DD: One new signing was maybe a tad disappointing, but at least it was in the area that we desperately needed one. We had to come out of this window with a new striker, no ifs or buts. It took a while, but Emil Riis is in and he can hopefully solve our attacking issues. Additionally, we managed to keep Ben Davies, Ben Pearson, Alan Browne and Daniel Johnson despite interest from elsewhere, so it’s not the worst window in the world - but we are maybe a quick winger short.
FF: Probably a five, maybe six out of ten. We finally signed a striker that Alex Neil has wanted for years, someone who is young, mobile, a big lad and has potential for sell-on value and managed to keep hold of some of our key players but other than that, nothing. We did buy a new training ground though.
Ins >>> Emil Riis, 22, CF, Randers, £1.35m
Outs >>> Connor Simpson, 20, CF, Cork, Free >>> Tom Clarke, 32, CB, Salford, Free >>> Kevin O’Connor, 25, LB, Cork, Free >>> Jack Armer, 19, LB, Carlisle, Free >>> Josh Ginnelly, 23, LW, Hearts, Loan >>> Michael Crowe, 24, GK, Released
Where is the team strong and where is it weak?
DD: We have very strong midfield options - almost too many to know what to do with. Ben Pearson, Ryan Ledson, Alan Browne, Daniel Johnson, Paul Gallagher, Brad Potts, Tom Bayliss, Josh Harrop… they’re all predominantly midfielders who operate centrally, and that ultimately means that a couple of them miss out every week despite their quality. With Riis still an unknown quantity, our attack isn’t particularly great, whilst we don’t have much thrust coming from the full back positions when Darnell Fisher is out.
FF: Midfield is probably our strongest area. I’d have say up front is still our weakest point, despite signing Emil Riis from Randers FC in Denmark.
How do you think you'll do now you've seen a few games?
DD: I still think we’re likely to be around mid-table, but it’s been a tough start. The 2018-19 season was a struggle for the first six months after a similarly poor start, so we’re hoping to find some consistency soon and push up the table rather than look over our shoulder.
FF: This season? Still far to early to say. Against QPR, I think we will get at least a point. Maybe nick all three.
The Twitter @loftforwords, @deepdaledigest, @fromthefinney, @jioates
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