Dave Seddon’s pressview

Greg Cunningham scores the winner against Bristol
Greg Cunningham scores the winner against Bristol
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The trend a couple of months ago was for clubs to change manager just ahead of playing Preston.

Things happened differently this week with defeat at PNE’s hands proving to be the last hurrah for Steve Cotterill as Bristol City boss.

Less than 48 hours after the Lilywhites had left Ashton Gate with a 2-1 win, Cotterill was on his way.

If he was judged by results alone, than a goal from one of his former players put the final nail in his coffin.

Greg Cunningham’s diving header secured the points for North End, the ex-Robins man choosing the perfect occasion to open his scoring account in a Preston shirt.

In the summer, the Irishman was deemed surplus to requirements by City.

Six months on, Cunningham has started all but two of PNE’s league games and for me, has been their most consistent outfield performer.

He has looked at home in the left-back role, at wing-back and on the left side of a three.

That is decent going for a free transfer signing whose arrival perhaps went slightly under the radar.

Cunningham’s new employers have settled into the Championship much more comfortably than his previous club.

The manner in which City romped to the League One title, eight points clear of MK Dons in second and 10 ahead of North End, was to suggest they would adapt to the higher division reasonably well.

Half-way through January, Preston are 13 points better off than City.

Not that they have been without their uncomfortable patches this season but Simon Grayson’s men have made the jump in levels more smoothly in comparison.

You could point to a more sensible recruitment policy as being a reason.

The Robins set the bar high with bids for Andre Gray and Dwight Gayle in the summer, more recently attempting to sign the very promising Zach Clough from Bolton.

Big money was offered and accepted but none of the targets were landed.

Ambitious? Yes. Realistic? Probably not.

North End’s signings might not have been ones to attract headlines outside of Preston but they have generally been effective.

Cunningham, Marnick Vermijl, Jordan Pickford – prior to his recall – and Adam Reach, can be deemed to be good business.

A decent last month was got out of Will Keane, although before that, the wind blew in the other direction.

Eoin Doyle has still to convince, with Stevie May also in that category before his horrible injury.

In general though, the new recruits have played a big part in the climb to mid-table.

We will now see how Callum Robinson and Ben Pearson do, while hopefully Sam Johnstone’s stay can be a longer one on which to judge him, that is unless Pickford was to return for a second spell.

North End’s recruitment has been realistic for the job in hand, that is to establish themselves in the division and stay safe.

The buying and loaning this window might well be the start of plans to push on, shopping now with next season in mind if you will.

Recent incomings have created scope for movement the other way, Thursday of this week seeing Josh Brownhill move on loan to Barnsley.

The temporary move could be the lift which the young lad needs at the moment.

After bouncing into the first-team picture at the age of 17 and making such a positive impact, Brownhill has found things tougher this last year-and-a-half.

When players make an early breakthrough, there will often be a period of levelling out.

Others have got ahead of him and you could not argue the case to play him in front of Daniel Johnson, Paul Gallagher, Alan Browne and John Welsh, Pearson too now.

A run of games at Barnsley should bolster his confidence and match sharpness, his performance at Peterborough last week probably lacking both of those elements.

Preston are not ready to discard him, with talks taking place as recently as the back end of this week about a new contract.

There does seem to have been an emphasis put on the younger end of the age scale of late when you look at the recent recruitment.

Look at the case of Ben Davies too, while he was loaned out to Newport County last week, a clause to extend his contract by 12 months was activated by North End.

Doing that shows there is a willingness to work with young players and not discard them too quickly.