Dave Seddon's PNE Press View
As Preston hit something of a yellow wall against Burton last weekend, the reason for that might well have been found sat in the Invincibles Pavilion at Deepdale.
Paul Gallagher’s damaged calf muscle reduced him to the role of spectator for the visit of the Brewers and in all probability will restrict him to a watching brief when PNE take on Sheffield Wednesday.
Absence can make the heart grow fonder and perhaps the midfielder’s importance to the workings of the North End side were underlined by him not being out on the pitch.
Had Gallagher played, would it have taken the best part of half-an-hour for PNE to awake from their slumbers?
Once they had equalised and began to boss possession, would his presence have helped spark something a little less predictable?
That clever pass, just a quicker pass even, in order to unlock the door.
The Lilywhites lacked a bit of creativity, nothing glaring but enough to notice.
This week, Simon Grayson spoke of the need for someone to step into Gallagher’s shoes craft-wise.
Not necessarily in his exact mould but something along similar lines – being willing to keep the ball moving and be a bit different.
Grayson name-checked Ben Pearson as a possibility, on the strength of the Chadderton lad’s form these last couple of months.
Indeed, Pearson is more than the combative midfielder his yellow card-count might suggest.
The manner in which he got on the ball as the Burton game went on, marked him out as the main hope of being behind a breakthrough.
For me, Aiden McGeady and Daniel Johnson are two who could fill the Gallagher void in different ways.
McGeady tried to make things happen last Saturday but could not quite nail it.
His decision-making was a bit off-kilter, a couple of ambitious shots towards the end when perhaps a cross would have been in order, a case in point.
But at least McGeady was willing to chance his arm, he wanted to try for the far top corner.
DJ did not have the best of times against Burton but we know he can make things happen when on song.
How North End line up at Hillsborough will be interesting.
Does Grayson go for more creativity and numbers in midfield – find a way through that way?
Or is it time for something a bit different up front?
There is the option of switching Callum Robinson to a wider role, perhaps opening the door for Jermaine Beckford.
I suppose there is natural caution when it comes to managing Beckford, a sense of the need to reduce the risk of further niggling injuries balanced with the desire to get him properly up and running once again.
Maybe the expectancy levels will suit Preston against Wednesday – last season’s beaten play-off finalists.
The Owls will start as favourites by reason of what they did last term and in terms of money spent since.
However, being up against that kind of challenge did not do Grayson’s men any harm at Brighton and Norwich of late.
Meanwhile, it was good to see PNE’s academy lads make it through to the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup on Wednesday evening.
A 1-0 victory over Sheffield United put them in the hat for next week’s draw.
They had to dig in for spells after taking an early lead and a stand-out performance on the night came from goalkeeper Callum Roberts.
He is not the biggest of keepers but stood tall to thwart the Blades on a few occasions.
Six of the starting XI were first-year scholars – it was a ‘young’ youth team, if that does not sound too daft.
It is a challenge for young players to make the grade at Deepdale because of the lack of a reserve team.
At the end of a scholarship, there is the jump straight to the fringes of the first-team squad without the extended development stage which an Under-21s/23s set-up offers.
Going forward, that might be on the agenda although, like everything else, establishing a reserve squad costs money.
Finally, what dreadful news from South America where a plane crash killed 71 people, including many of the Chapecoense football team.
What a heartfelt reaction too from around the football world as the sport paused to remember the dead.
Chapecoense were on the way to the biggest game in their history, a journey they did not complete because of such tragic circumstances.