First things first… by trade you’re the Lancashire Post’s PNE man, but are you also a fan? If not, where do your allegiances lie?
Adam: I’m part of a two-man team covering PNE with Dave Seddon (@Sedds_lep) who is a lifelong PNE fan. I’m not and don’t really have a club to call my own.
No team? Please tell me you’re not a fan of half and half scarves too?
After an iffy start to the season, they haven’t half turned it around. what, if anything, did Alex Neil change to prompt this turnaround?
The season has been derailed by injuries and Neil always argued that when his best players were in the team together, things would change for the better. That has certainly been the case with North End five unbeaten, including three straight away wins, ahead of Wednesday night’s game. At one point 11 first-team players were missing either through injury or suspension.
Fair enough. I was unaware the poor start was underpinned by a run of injuries. I can’t pretend – you’re making me nervous about tomorrow night!
Alex was very active in the January window. Fair to assume these guys have had a positive impact on the squad? Jayden Stockley looks a decent player.
Stockley provides something that PNE have been missing since Jordan Hugill left 12 months ago, a real target man at the top end. Brad Potts already has two goals since his arrival from Barnsley and looks like he is going to give North End something different in the middle of the park and final third. It was a really strong transfer window for North End.
How do you expect PNE to line up on Wednesday night? And what style has Alex got them playing in? I watched them a couple of Fridays ago, against Derby, and it looked they were playing some decent stuff.
Neil changed his side for the first time in four games for the win at Bolton on Saturday and has plenty of options at his disposal having come through the injury crisis. The only switch against Wanderers saw Tom Barkhuizen come in for Stockley to give a more fluid look to the frontline. They will be 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1 with plenty of endeavour, lots of energy and no shortage of quality on the ball.
Hhmm… still nervous.
Anyway, how are our ‘old boys’ doing? It didn’t work out for Alex here in the end but, as a person, there’s still a lot of respect for him down Norfolk way – certainly when compared to another Scottish ex of ours! Funny how things work out… Declan Rudd wasn’t especially rated by Alex when he was here, but tomorrow night he makes his 100th appearance for PNE.
Taking PNE so close to the playoffs last season was a great start from Neil and hopes were high this time around only for injuries to derail things somewhat. A recovery is well underway though, with the boss not ruling out a late run at the playoffs. As for Rudd, his season has been far from straightforward. A series of errors, one at Birmingham even going viral, put his position under real scrutiny. But having seen off the challenge of Chris Maxwell who has been loaned to Charlton, PNE’s No.1 has rebounded impressively recently. A real testament to his character.
Yep, he never lacked confidence and belief. It’s good to see he’s bounced back from that dodgy spell.
So, what have you made of our season so far? Are you as surprised as we are over our promotion push? Can we…?
I’m surprised in as much as the atmosphere was a lot different for the reverse fixture at Carrow Road back in August with Farke under plenty of pressure. This is the Championship though and with a bit of momentum anything can happen, something PNE are banking on in the weeks and months to come. In some respects, it’s nice to see a club back a project and get their rewards like Norwich have.
Who are your key men tomorrow night (on both sides)?
Alan Browne is the man to watch for PNE. He made it 11 for the season against Bolton last time out and is turning into a complete midfielder. For Norwich, you can’t look past Teemu Pukki and his remarkable goalscoring record.
Finally… a prediction
It should be a really good game, I’m going for a score draw, maybe 2-2.
Former managers from Scotland who guided you to promotion are like London buses – if London buses threw hissy fits and got sent to the stands. With Lambert’s boys having been dispatched, it’s the turn of Alex Neil to try and put one over his former employers.
Preston are unbeaten in five and will surely fancy continuing that run in a game that should mark Declan Rudd’s 100th appearance for the club. For City, the match starts a sequence of supposedly easier fixtures, otherwise known as banana-skins.
In our tipster table, Stew is the man in form and his mystic musings have seen him pull alongside Martin at the top. Here’s what they think…
Penney predicts: We’ll be without super Mario but I’m sure Tettey and/or McLean will fit in admirably. Tough one to call so I’m going for a 1-1 draw.
Andy assumes: We all know there will be ups and downs before the season ends. The intensity of the last two games takes its toll against a decent Preston side. 2-1 defeat.
Gaz guesses: The mental toll of Sunday’s win shouldn’t be underestimated and I can this (understandably) being a bit of lethargic and disjointed one. But resilience oozes from every pore and I can still see a battling Desmond 2-2.
Cookie concludes: Our away form is ridiculous and maybe it’s a good time to be playing away, without the weight of Carrow Road expectation? I’d settle for a point but fancy us to nick it. PNE 1 – City 2.
Stew suspects: Even if we have to make a change or two of personnel, I don’t see our confidence and flow being disrupted. A tough game, but I reckon we’ll come out on top. 2-1 to City.
The oppo’s opinion: I’m going for a score draw, maybe 2-2.
Siri says: The answer is Preston 1 – Norwich 3