A change at the top appears to have done Colchester United a world of good over the past month.
Tomorrow’s visitors to Deepdale parted company with manager Joe Dunne on September 1, after five straight defeats in league and cup.
Under Dunne, the U’s had put just a single point on the board – in an opening-day 2-2 draw with Oldham.
The Essex outfit appointed in-house, promoting Tony Humes from his role as head of youth to the manager’s office.
Humes, 48, can look back on his first month in charge with a good deal of satisfaction.
Five games in September delivered two wins, two draws and a single loss – the defeat was to Sheffield United when they led 2-0 until the 83rd minute, only to lose 3-2.
That decent run of form has seen Colchester climb out of the bottom four and they will tackle Preston from 20th position.
An improvement at the back has played a major part in them hitting form under Humes – himself a tough centre-half in his playing days at Ipswich and Wrexham.
The only goals conceded in his reign to date were the three in the late collapse against the Blades – the same night in which PNE conceded three to Chesterfield after leading 3-0.
Colchester striker Freddie Sears is full of admiration for the way in which his team-mates have tightened up at the back.
Ex-West Ham front man Sears said: “Our defence has been unbelievable over the last five games.
“We have four clean sheets out of five and really it should be five out of five, after the Sheffield United game.
“They’ve been very solid and when they’re like that you know that even if you don’t manage to score, you’ll more than likely take a point.
“Over the last couple of seasons we’ve looked like conceding and sometimes they’ve been poor, sloppy goals.
“But Tony and Richard Hall have come in and put a real stamp on being solid and everyone getting into shape.
“You could tell at Crewe that we didn’t want to concede, which is fair play to the defence but it also comes from the midfielders and attackers as well.
“Tony and Richard set it out pretty early on after they came in to be more solid.
“Their main message was to do that but keep the quality going forward and I think we’ve done that.”
Sears is leading Colchester’s goal charge this season, with the 24-year-old having bagged himself five in 10 league starts.
The latest of those came in last week’s 3-0 victory over rock-bottom Crewe at Gresty Road.
Also on target were Rhys Healy – who is on loan from Cardiff – and former Arsenal trainee Sanchez Watt.
Said Sears: ““It’s five in 10 for me now and I’m really pleased with that.
“If I’m honest, I could have had seven or eight but that’s a positive for me and the team, the fact that I want to do better and score more goals.
“But I’ll take that for a good start.
“Normally it’s hard getting off the mark but I’ve kind of hit a run of form early on and it’s going really well.”