Home tester: Preston North End’s Deepdale form faces stern test from Albion
Preston’s strong Deepdale form will be put to the test under the lights tonight against an in-form West Bromwich Albion side.
The Lilywhites have won seven and drawn two of their Championship home games this season.
It’s been the bedrock of their push into the upper reaches of the table, with the away form not quite so clever.
This evening’s clash (7.45pm) is a battle of sixth versus second.
Victory for Alex Neil’s men would move them up to fourth place, while an Albion win would send them top.
What adds a little bit more spice to the contest is that North End boss Neil was on the Baggies’ radar in April.
Looking ahead to the televised clash, Neil said: “We know how difficult this one is going to be.
“West Bromwich had a very good result last Wednesday against Bristol City.
“Arguably they have one of the best squads in the league, probably along with Fulham in terms of just looking at the names.
“You don’t get an easy game in this league and this one will be tough for both teams.”
North End’s fortunes will rest heavily on being able to get a stronger side on the pitch than the one they had in action at Hull last Wednesday.
A full-back shortage, which Neil described as a ‘perfect storm’, saw Neil field Ryan Ledson at right-back.
He moved Ledson over to left-back in the second half with Joe Rafferty coming over to his natural right-back slot.
Darnell Fisher missed the Hull game, as did Ben Davies, Andrew Hughes and Tom Clarke. Also absent was Alan Browne who at times has stood in for Fisher at right-back.
If either Fisher or Browne are fit for this evening, it would give Neil the chance to put out a more balanced defence.
Davies was badly missed from the centre of defence too, an ankle injury sidelining him against Hull.
Neil told PNE’s official website: “It was a perfect storm against Hull, because their strength is their wide players and we were at our weakest in the full-back area.
“We just need to deal with it, we are not going to feel sorry for ourselves.
“It was frustrating because it was not a true representation of how well we have done, but hopefully we can bounce back.
“If we get a few bodies back, that will help and hopefully we can show everybody the form that we have shown at home so far this season.”
Fans are being urged to bring a PNE scarf with them tonight for a supporter-led ‘Scarf Night’.
As the teams come out on to the pitch, the idea is for fans to hold their scarves aloft to create a sea of blue and white.