After a poor start to the season, Preston will be looking to get their second home win of the season when they face Paul Clement’s Reading, who are bottom of the table and without a win after the opening six Championship games.
PNE have had time to find a balance over the international break
After the disappointing draw against Lancashire side Bolton last time out and the comeback from the away side meaning Preston are without a win since the first game of the season, Alex Neil has spoken about how the squad have struggled to find the right balance that they showed for much of last season:
“We’re trying to get the balance at the moment between being threatening going forward and still having that defensive nous to get back and it’s difficult to get that balance.”
The international break has allowed much of the squad to work in training to put things right against the Royals on Saturday. Although; Callum Robinson, Graham Burke and Alan Browne were away on international duty, with Robinson starting both of the Republic of Ireland’s games and Alan Browne picking up an injury which Alex Neil will be hoping does not add to the number of players already out of the Reading game through injury and/or suspension.
After finishing in third position and earning them a playoff spot in the 2016/17 campaign, many were shocked that Reading finished just three points of the relegation zone at the end of last season, but they have continued in bad form to start this season, leaving them in last position and without a win thus far.
Many Reading fans are becoming worried and frustrated at manager Paul Clement as they fear a repeat of last seasons poor campaign. The summer saw the manager bring in eight new players to his squad but has failed to see them make the impact he would have hoped for up to now. Speaking at a supporters fans forum, he had this to say;
“I’ve signed eight in this window. We’ll need the next two windows to get the right blend and to trim the squad. But it is better to have more than less.”
“The players are suffering like you are suffering as fans right now. I understand your frustrations but you can be a big help when you get behind the players.”
North End will be without at least five players for the game on Saturday, but that figure could rise to seven depending on news on other injuries.
Ben Pearson and Ryan Ledson are both suspended for the fixture, with Pearson picking up a red card after the final whistle against Bolton for an unnecessary headbutt.
On top of that Callum Woods, Sean Maguire and Billy Bodin are all still out injured with Woods expected to come back the quickest as Maguire is set to be out until October and Bodin way after the new year.
After going away on international duty with the Republic Of Ireland, Alan Browne quickly picked up an injury which saw him miss both games and could be out for the game on Saturday but that remains to be seen, whilst the same applies to Lukas Nmecha who missed the Bolton game and had to pull out of the England U21 team because of an injury.
It should also be kept in mind that Burke came on to play in both of the Republic Of Ireland’s games and Callum Robinson started in both, although the most recent game was on Tuesday, which will hopefully give the pair enough time to turn their attention back to the Championship and play their part on Saturday.
Chris Gunter returned from injury to play in the visitors last game against Sheffield Wednesday and will be able to start against North End, whilst Callum Harriot is still out injured and has been since the beginning of last year.
The Royal’s have had eight players away on international duty, they will be hoping they are all fit and raring to go on Saturday.
This is a very historic fixture with Preston just about having the edge in the 57 previous meetings in terms of wins, with the first of those being an 18-0 win in the FA Cup. With North End scoring just five goal in the first six games of the season I am certainly not expecting that to happen, but I am expecting a better performance than we have seen as of late.
My prediction: PNE 1-0 Reading
Picture credit: Preston North End