Dave Seddon’s press view

Chesterfield's Jay O'Shea is tackled by John Welsh

Chesterfield's Jay O'Shea is tackled by John Welsh

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There was a tweet on my Twitter feed recently which made me both chuckle and nod in agreement.

It read ‘70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, the other 30% is covered by John Welsh’.

The tweet has been tweaked on social media to apply to different players at different clubs – Welsh is in good company alongside Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez and Manuel Neuer at Bayern Munich.

Welsh has been Preston’s heartbeat, their driving force in midfield over the second half of the season.

After games when it comes to weighing up the starman choice, the bearded Scouser has more often than not, been right up there in the running.

He has got the deep-laying midfield role down to a tee, sitting in front of the defence to provide an extra layer of protection.

It means that his ventures towards the opposition penalty are rare but that is a sacrifice which the holding role demands.

Of late, Welsh’s importance to the North End side has risen to the fore.

More and more they have been dropping deep, either instinctively or tactically.

Paul Gallagher and Daniel Johnson, both attack-minded midfielders, have been somewhat marginalised by that way of playing.

That said, Gallagher was in the heat of the battle a couple of times in Thursday night’s play-off win at Chesterfield.

His sore neck and battered face will be testament to that, more of that in a bit.

With Welsh’s game being well suited to the battling and ratting, he has at times looked like the only PNE midfielder in the game.

The Chesterfield first leg was a case in point. North End choosing to drop off and allow the home side possession in areas which they hoped would not hurt them.

Welsh came into his own when the Spireites started to go where Preston did not want them to – he hustled, blocked, tackled and harried anything in a blue shirt.

Johnson and Gallagher were not quite so effective, that not their natural game.

Ideally, PNE need to clone three of John Welsh if they are going to soak up pressure.

If they did so, the ‘thy shall not pass’ signs could be nailed into the ground and give the frayed nerves of the North End fans some respite.

Although many of us like to see the challenges and tackles flying in during the heat of a battle, it is common ground that Chesterfield – on a couple of occasions – took things too far on Thursday night.

Gallagher had a sore Adam’s apple and cheekbone by way of the scars of battle when he reported in for Friday’s recovery training session.

Quite how referee Mark Haywood missed him being grabbed by the throat by Gary Roberts in the first half and then get Jimmy Ryan’s elbow in his face early in the second half, is beyond me.

Not every incident is seen by officials during game, they are only human after all.

But both incidents happened under the nose of Mr Haywood, the fact that he booked Gallagher for daring to get his chops in the way of Ryan’s elbow, truly astonishing.

Could the fourth official or assistant on that side of the pitch not have helped him?

Play-off games tend to be given to those referees who have marked highly during the season.

If Mr Haywood was indeed among the cream of the crop, one shudders to think who came below him in the pecking order.

While PNE’s performance at Chesterfield was hardly bordering on Barcelona-esque, it proved effective.

At least it laid to rest the record of not having won away in the play-offs.

Draws at Derby and Leeds had been as good as it had got before this week, defeats away to Port Vale, Torquay, Bury, Gillingham, Birmingham, Sheffield United and Rotherham having formed part of the joyless history.

That is one supposed ‘curse’ out of the way, now the job in hand is to see off Chesterfield in the second leg and then end the biggest hoodoo of the lot, winning the final.

North End will need to be on the front foot a lot more at Deepdale.

While they have the goal advantage, the onus remains on them as the home side to take the game to their visitors.

It is something which PNE are capable of, doing so against Swindon a fortnight ago and coming out with a 3-0 win.

Yes, they must keep a tight line at the back, but that married together with a front foot mentality has every chance of a good outcome.

Preston at their Sunday best please.