Dave Seddon's PNE pressview

On May 7 last year Preston closed the 2015/16 season on 62 points, finishing in 11th place in the Championship.

Saturday, 6th May 2017, 10:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:46 pm
Jordan Hugill scores his goal of the season against Aston Villa

A year on, they head to Molineux to take on Wolves in this campaign’s finale.

North End go there with 62 points and in 11th place, symmetry indeed between this season and last.

Best case scenario is to close with 65 points in the bag, to better last term.

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Whether they achieve that or finish even stevens with last season, remains to be seen.

But there the parallels between this season and last season end.

The Lilywhites might be locked on the same number of points and be in the same upper mid-table position but how they have achieved that differs greatly.

In 2015/16, they scored 45 goals and conceded 45.

With one game left of this term, Simon Grayson’s men have netted 64 goals – 19 more than last time – and shipped 17 more (62 to 45).

Last season, they divided their points equally home and away – 31 gathered at Deepdale and 31 on the road.

They won one more game away than at home (8 to 7), drawing 10 in front of the faithful compared to seven when travelling.

This season, PNE have been stronger at home, with 11 wins, six draws and six defeats. With just the Wolves trip to come, their away record is won five, drawn eight and lost nine.

To sum up, they have scored more, conceded more and been much stronger at home.

So it would wrong to say that this season is merely a repeat of last – far from it.

The outcome might end up being the same but how they got there is different.

I believe the statistics are encouraging, the football of a more positive nature this time.

Last season was more of a safety-first approach, have what you hold – sensible in the first year in the division.

That had its critics but survival and then a push to establish themselves in the Championship was Preston’s chosen method.

It gave them a platform to push on this season and in between a shaky start and a dodgy end, they have done that. Without doubt we have been entertained a lot more this season.

To see Aiden McGeady, Tom Barkhuizen, Callum Robinson, Jordan Hugill, Ben Pearson and Daryl Horgan at full tilt, has been a joy at times.

The quality of the entries in PNE’s goal of the season award was testament to the entertainment levels.

Any other year, McGeady could have filled the top three by himself.

As it was, Hugill took the honours with that stunning solo effort at Aston Villa which was a notch or two up from similar against Cardiff.

There have been two more great goals scored since voting closed – McGeady’s 20-yarder at Huddersfield and the comeback goal last week from Stevie May.

The challenge for Grayson in 2017/18 is to marry this season’s attacking threat with the defensive solidity of last term.

Find that balance and the chances of pushing beyond 11th place are strong.

Bolstering the defence is up there in importance with getting McGeady back and finding a regular scorer.

A centre-back was already on the shopping list before Tom Clarke’s injury.

With Clarke out until next year, you would argue that two are needed.

Is it any coincidence that 11 goals have been shipped since the skipper pulled up in agony at Huddersfield on Good Friday?

Clarke is a good example of someone you don’t think you miss until he is not there.

His leadership has been a key part of PNE’s set-up since he got the captaincy during his first season here.

While Clarke sets out on the long road back to fitness, it was heartening to see May reach the end of a similar journey last week.

It was his first Preston start since October 2015 – a month before suffering what was an horrendous knee injury.

To score his first goal for the club was the icing on the cake.

A chat with May after the Rotherham game underlined just how badly his right knee was damaged at Fulham in November 2015.

Three torn ligaments, a bone fracture, muscle pushed into bone by the force of the impact.

Little wonder that in the early stages after the injury, the subject of him possibly not playing again was raised.

The damage was caused by the impact of a challenge over-straightening his leg.

May is in good company with such an injury – Zlatan Ibrahimovic having done similar last month.

Finally, best wishes go to Everton winger Aaron Lennon as he recovers from a stress related illness.

There is still a section of our society and indeed some media outlets who need to come out of the dark ages in relation to such conditions.

His salary, profession and background are irrelevant in these circumstances, mental illness doesn’t discriminate and can affect anyone.