Alex Neil’s Preston side will face Derby County on Saturday afternoon on the back of a disappointing defeat against his old side Norwich on Wednesday night.
Derby will be looking for back–to–back wins following their 2-0 win against Ipswich in mid-week, with that being their second victory of the season in the midst of two defeats to Leeds and Millwall.
Room for improvement for the Lilywhites
North End will be staying at St George’s Park for the days leading up to Saturday’s clash at Pride Park. This will reduce the travelling for what will be their second away game of three in the space of six days.
Last time out, Alex Neil opted with a slightly different formation in Norfolk with both Louis Moult and Lukas Nmecha starting up front, in an attempt to frustrate the unreliable Norwich back–line. In a game where both sides were far from their best, Preston had a couple of chances, in particular Callum Robinson who had a shot crash of the crossbar.
When Darnell Fisher was caught out of position with 10 minutes to go, Norwich took the lead before scoring again minutes later resulting in a 2-0 defeat for North End.
That was another defeat on the road for PNE at the start of this campaign, with manager Alex Neil seemingly disappointed by the start to the season:
“It’s been the story of our season so far, we create good opportunities but don’t take them. Being clinical at this level is crucial. I am a realist, the fact is four points from 12 isn’t such a good start and so there is now even more importance on the Derby game for me.”
There has been a lot of attention on Derby since former Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard was announced as the Rams manager at the end of May.
Since then, he has brought in a lot of talent to Pride Park, with Harry Wilson, George Evans, and Chelsea loanee Mason Mount just a few new additions added to the Derby squad this summer.
Someone who will not be a new face to either set of fans on the weekend is 33–year–old striker David Nugent, the former PNE man who scored over 30 goals in a couple of seasons at Deepdale started for the Rams in their victory over Ipswich. This could be the same case come Saturday. However, he will have plenty of competition throughout the season to keep his place in the Derby team.
Overall, Derby have made a slightly better start to the new campaign when compared to Preston, with a couple of wins on top of as many defeats leaving them on six points going into the game on Saturday.
Frank Lampard spoke on Tuesday night about his eagerness for his players to be patient in order to play a winning style of football:
“It’s not possession football and it’s not direct football. We want to win games. Patience when we are trying to move the ball will help us. We massively appreciate the support from the fans.”
Alex Neil will have the same players unavailable for the Derby game that were out of the game against Norwich.
The long term injuries to striker Sean Maguire and winger Billy Bodin are seemingly a problem for PNE who have struggled thus far in front of goal, failing to score a goal from open play in the league.
Right back Callum Woods is set to miss the Derby game through the injury he picked up against Morecambe in the Carabao Cup.
Midfielder Paul Gallagher is serving his second game of the three match ban he received for violent conduct after catching Joe Allen in the face with a trailing arm in a 2-2 draw with Stoke.
Midfielder Daniel Johnson was back in the squad on Wednesday after signing a new deal at North End keeping him at the club until the summer of 2021, with speculation prior to this linking him with a move away, he spoke about the new contract after the 2-0 defeat:
“My aim first and foremost is to get myself in to the team and get myself going, that is the main target for me.”
During their victory against Ipswich on Tuesday night, midfielder and summer signing George Evans picked up what looked like a serious injury, with Frank Lampard confirming after the game that it is perhaps not as bad as it seemed but he will miss the game on Saturday and be out altogether for 4-6 weeks.
Also, after the game the Rams boss concluded that both Harry Wilson and Curtis Davies are both “likely” to miss out on the weekend, although Tom Huddlestone and Scott Malone are in contention to face PNE.
Looking back on previous meetings between the two sides, Preston may have difficulty in picking up their first away win of the season on Saturday, with the last time North End beat Derby in the league at Pride Park being in September 2002.
In fact, the Lilywhites have not beaten Derby altogether since 2008, so that the fact that Preston have won more games in this fixture in the 115 meetings between the two sides is not a result of recent events.
After a poor performance against Norwich, I expect a better performance from Preston on Saturday that will hopefully replicate many of the away performances of last season, as much as I fear the possibility of three away defeats in three, I am staying optimistic that we can get a result.
My prediction: Derby 1-1 PNE