Dave Seddon’s Preston North End Press View: A tale of three Joshes
Messrs Harrop, Earl and Ginnelly have made the news agenda at Deepdale over the past week.
Preston’s Josh trio all had a spell in the limelight for differing reasons.
In Josh Harrop’s case, he scored a beauty of a goal to earn North End a draw at Blackburn last Saturday.
The other two, Josh Earl and Josh Ginnelly, have been on the move to League One in search of a regular game of first-team football.
Earl will spend the rest of the campaign on loan with Ipswich Town, Ginnelly likewise at Bristol Rovers.
Out of interest, those two sides meet on March 14 at the Memorial Ground, with Ginnelly potentially being marked by Earl.
Back to that duo in a bit, let me start with a look at Harrop making the headlines at Ewood Park.
His was some goal wasn’t it? A first-time shot from the edge of the box leathered into the roof of the net.
There was no stopping it, the midfielder’s seventh goal of the campaign pulling North End level after they had fallen behind early on.
Harrop had got a goal in the previous game too, a late consolation as his side bowed out of the FA Cup at the hands of Norwich.
The former Manchester United man’s minutes-on-the-pitch-to-goals ratio is pretty good to say the least but would you have him down as a starter every week?
Alex Neil has seen fit to start him 10 times this season – in seven league games, two League Cup ties and the aforementioned FA Cup clash.
In the main Harrop has started from the left wing, not as an out-and-out winger but encouraged to come inside and add a presence that way. The No.10 position which perhaps might suit Harrop is earmarked for others as things stand – Alan Browne and Brad Potts if ‘running 10s’ are the order of the day, or Daniel Johnson when fit and to bring about creativity behind creativity.
Neil thinks there is still work to be done on the defensive side of Harrop’s game, in tracking full-backs and helping provide a layer in front of the back four.
Going forward though, he can provide a spark and clearly has an eye for a goal.
If it’s coming off that left side where Harrop is seen as best used, he is going to face some stern competition.
Scott Sinclair might have been on the bench last week but isn’t going to be forever.
It’s when – not if – the new signing from Celtic starts and his favoured role is down that left and coming in.
Mind you, Sinclair has the versatility to play down the middle and on the other side of the pitch.
Against Rovers, his late cameo was in place of Harrop on the left.
With regards Harrop’s development, let’s not forget that he had played but one first-team game for United before coming to Deepdale.
He missed much of his second season as a Preston player when he damaged a cruciate ligament.
In effect, the 24-year-old is playing only his second campaign of first-team football so allowances have to be made for that.
As for the other two lads who share the same first name, Earl and Ginnelly will be looking to make an impact at their new temporary residences over the next three or four months.
Both have made what look to be very good moves, in Earl’s case Ipswich are right up there in the League One automatic promotion race.
Bristol Rovers are back in 12th place but only three points shy of the play-off positions, giving Ginnelly plenty to play for. This is Earl’s second loan of the season, having been at Bolton until the beginning of the month.
Restrictions placed on Bolton meant loans cannot be done in whole-season blocks, hence Earl coming back on January 5.
But they could have taken him for a second time and the indication was that they would do.
There was a change of heart but it could be for the better as far as Earl is concerned, with Ipswich offering him the chance to force his way into a side at the top end of the table.
The 21-year-old got himself 11 games at Bolton and will be looking to add significantly to that number down in Suffolk.
Earl and indeed PNE, will hope that with games under his belt he can return to Deepdale in the summer and push for a place here.
Having been used in the main as a central defender by Bolton, it will be interesting to see how Ipswich play him.
And how would he be regarded on his return to Preston – as a centre-half or a left-back?
It is a big half season for Ginnelly too. Having made only nine appearances in his 12 months with North End, he’s a winger in need of a run of games.
He is quick and raw, PNE knowing that when they bought him from Walsall.
Indeed, Neil said the winger was very much a work in progress rather than the finished article.
Neil clearly hasn’t seen enough from Ginnelly yet on the training ground and in bounce games to be convinced to throw him in regularly at North End.
So a close eye will be kept on his progress in the West Country to see if he progresses to the standard required.