Exclusive Sean Gregan PNE column

Share this article
0
Have your say

Jordan Hugill put his head where it hurts to score Preston’s first goal in a great victory over Bolton at the Macron Stadium.

It was a brave diving header from the lad and sometimes you have to take a bit of pain to help your team win a game.

Jordan Hugill celebrates his headed goal at Bolton on Saturday  and doffs his imaginary bowler hat to the travelling PNE fans

Jordan Hugill celebrates his headed goal at Bolton on Saturday  and doffs his imaginary bowler hat to the travelling PNE fans

Hugill is from the same part of the world as myself so I was really pleased to see him score his first league goal for North End.

Being a Middlesbrough lad like myself, maybe being caught by the defender’s boot would not have hurt Hugill because there is not much upstairs anyway – only kidding!

I don’t think you can coach bravery so Hugill showed some natural instinct to go for the header, knowing he would get clattered by the defender.

Sometimes if you dangle a leg at the ball and are a little bit half-hearted in a situation like that one, that is when you can get hurt. But throwing yourself at full throttle towards the ball can often be good protection, it makes you that bit more robust.

Another of the Preston strikers who has had to sit on the bench quite a lot lately, is Eoin Doyle, who popped up with the winner.

With Joe Garner serving a suspension, Simon Grayson would have been delighted to see two back-up options step up to the plate.

The Bolton game certainly had the potential to be a tough one for PNE to negotiate.

Forget league position for a moment, for starters it was a local derby, which are hard games to call.

Bolton’s takeover had been completed a couple of days before the game, potentially lifting some of the uncertainty which had been hanging over the club.

It seems like they had their tails up in the first half and they got themselves in front.

North End were better in the second half and got a lot stronger as the game went on.

At the interval, Simon Grayson changed formation from 3-5-2 to 4-3-3.

Much is made of systems but in the end, it is up to the players to perform.

The 3-5-2 was a system which I played in at Preston under Gary Peters quite a lot.

It can be very effective and can be played in two ways.

If the wing-backs are quite attack-minded, in reality it is a 3-5-2, while it can be more of a 5-3-2 if the wing-backs adopt a more defensive attitude.

When I played for West Bromwich Albion after leaving North End, we played a 5-3-2 in the Premier League in a bid to survive in games.

Three-at-the-back with wing-backs is a system I played from an early age.

Brian Little used it when he was manager at Darlington and when he moved on to join Leicester, they played that way too.

If done right, it is a very good system, although like any formation, it will have its drawbacks.

A 3-5-2 allows you to have the extra defender and have a three in midfield.

Getting bodies in midfield and controlling that area is what the modern game is all about.

If I was a manager coming up against a 3-5-2, I would be tempted to play three up top to go three versus three and test it that way.

Ultimately, winning a game of football comes down to what is done in both boxes.

If someone is prepared to put their head in, like Hugill did, that can be the difference between three points and one.

North End had a really big following of fans at Bolton and it looks like there will be even more when they play Blackburn at Ewood Park after the international break. That could be quite an occasion.