Dave Seddon’s PNE Press View

PNE celebrate with scorer Paul Gallagher at The Valley
PNE celebrate with scorer Paul Gallagher at The Valley
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Will the win at Charlton be this season’s turning point for Preston North End in the way the visit to Sheffield United was eight months ago?

Time will tell, not necessarily as early as the visit to league leaders Brighton, but in the weeks ahead.

On February 3, North End’s campaign changed for the better after a grim January.

They won their FA Cup replay 3-1 against the Blades at Bramall Lane, setting them up for a visit from Manchester United in the fifth round.

It gave their league form a kick-start, as they went 18 games unbeaten.

I do not imagine for one moment that such a run is within PNE’s capabilities in the higher division.

However, it could just be that riding out of The Valley with three points was the spark they were seeking in terms of finding their feet in the Championship.

Paul Gallagher scored twice that February night in South Yorkshire and he was at it again on Tuesday night in South London.

In this column a little over a month ago, I wrote how crucial a loss Gallagher was during his absence with injury.

Since he returned to action, North End have taken four points from two games.

Even when looking a touch rusty against Cardiff last week, I felt Gallagher gave the side that little bit more purpose.

At Charlton, the layer of rust had gone and he bossed the game during his 79 minutes on the pitch.

His deployment in a deeper midfield role was significant.

Not deep in the sense of the holding role favoured by John Welsh for example.

Instead, Gallagher had a role which allowed him to get on the ball early to build attacks, ably assisted by Alan Browne and Daniel Johnson either side of him.

It might be that PNE need an extra layer of protection at Brighton. But it would be good to see the freer role for Gallagher again which gets North End on the front foot.

His two goals in midweek were crackers, the second in particular.

The technique displayed for the second was excellent, it was with pin-point accuracy that he guided a shot into the far top corner from a difficult angle on the edge of the box.

No doubt Gallagher’s name will be among the first written on the team-sheet for the Brighton game.

It will be interesting to see what Simon Grayson does with Joe Garner – twist and put him back in, or stick with Jordan Hugill and Eoin Doyle who played at Charlton?

If he is to go straight back in, I would make a case for him being partnered by Hugill.

Not that Doyle didn’t play well in midweek, because I thought he was decent.

But Hugill made the ball stick up front and his work rate was excellent.

Whoever starts up front or comes on at some stage, they need a goal.

To be in the penultimate week of October and not having had a striker on target in league action, is remarkable.

Fortunately, with Gallagher having an eye for goal and Johnson having found the net six times, the cracks have been covered up somewhat.

The visit to Brighton, all 289 miles of it from my front door, is the chance for Preston fans to tick off a new ground.

From what I’ve seen of the Amex Stadium on television, it is on a different planet to their previous Withdean Stadium ground, which was a converted athletics venue.

In my previous job, I covered a Wigan game at the 
Withdean – it was the only time I have witnessed a 
footballer being injured in a sandpit!

The poor lad overran the pitch trying to keep the ball in play and fell into the long jump sand, turning his ankle.

It will certainly be a tough test for North End at the Amex but one from which the pressure has been taken off slightly by the Charlton win.

For me, the approach needs to be similar to that on Tuesday but being mindful of the fact Brighton are top of the table for a reason.

The PNE Former Players’ Association annual dinner on Thursday night was, as ever, a great occasion.

To see favourites from down the years such as Alex Bruce, Mike Elwiss, John Thomas, Roy Tunks, Steve Elliott, Graham Alexander, Lee Cartwright, Lee Ashcroft and David Lucas, was tremendous.

I wish a speedy recovery to Mike King who normally comperes the event but at the moment is in hospital recovering from a heart 

Fred Eyre did a fine job as compere but I did miss Kingy’s usual pre-meal joke about croutons in the soup and the chef recovering from a bout of impetigo! Get well soon Mike.