Dave Seddon's PNE pressview
Rotation, rotation, rotation.
Five weeks ago, it worked wonderfully for Preston but on Tuesday night the all-change policy backfired dramatically.
At Bournemouth last month in the third round of the EFL Cup, Simon Grayson rang the changes – making 10 in all from the previous game.
It worked a treat, fresh players with something to prove getting the better of their Premier League hosts and running out 3-2 winners.
Three or four used it as a springboard to nail down a more regular slot in North End’s first-team plans for the games which followed.
Wind the clock forward to this week and making nine changes for the fourth-round meeting with Newcastle led to a long night on the touchline for Grayson at St James’ Park.
Although the mass switch was always going to be a gamble, few could have envisaged a 6-0 thrashing.
Let’s get one thing straight, I doubt the defeat would have reached the extent it did had Alan Browne not been sent-off in the 25th minute.
There was every chance the Magpies would have built on the 1-0 lead they had at the time of Browne’s red card.
But 6-0? Few people would have put money on that.
So what conclusions can be reached from the rotation against Newcastle and also Bournemouth?
You could argue the depth of Newcastle’s squad is greater than that of Bournemouth, despite the latter being in the division above.
Aleksandar Mitrovic – all £13m of him – for Dwight Gayle isn’t a bad swap is it?
On the Preston front, what it shows me is how the squad has evolved in recent weeks.
There has been a shift in the natural order, players pushing themselves up the queue in Grayson’s thoughts.
It is often the case that a side which starts the season bears little resemblance to that which finishes it.
Bournemouth away was a game which Chris Maxwell, Ben Pearson, John Welsh and Simon Makienok pushed their claim for more regular involvement.
Maxwell has established himself as first-choice keeper and Pearson is now a key figure in midfield – to the extent he was left at home on Tuesday night to avoid the risk of a suspension-triggering fifth yellow card.
Welsh, until the calf injury he suffered at Brighton a fortnight ago, was back on the team-sheet.
Although not a regular starter, striker Makienok’s involvement has been greater since netting his hat-trick against Bournemouth.
Perhaps that victory on the south coast was the slight change in direction which the team needed.
By the same token, was the team picked at Newcastle something of a return to earlier in the campaign when results were not forthcoming?
It must be hoped that the midweek events can quickly be forgotten.
The ideal thing to banish such memories would be a good result against Newcastle at Deepdale.
Should PNE put something on the board this weekend, there would be justification on Grayson’s part for rotating.
Of course it is frustrating that a chance to reach the last eight of the EFL Cup has passed Preston by.
Had they been victorious on Tyneside, it would have been the club’s first visit to the competition’s quarter final.
Cup runs do capture the imagination and provide excitement away from the pursuit of league points.
Whether Tuesday’s result has any bearing on Newcastle’s visit here, is anyone’s guess.
The visitors certainly won’t be lacking confidence, 6-0 win or not – they had won their previous five games anyway.
With the majority of Preston’s likely starters having been spared involvement in midweek, you would like to think they have not been scarred by being on the end of a six-goal setback.
Events in the North East did mean that last week’s fine win at Norwich soon got forgotten.
That was a shame, with it arguably being their best league result of the season.
It might not have had the excitement and flow of the victories over Aston Villa and Huddersfield.
But in terms of executing a game-plan efficiently, this hit the nail on the head.
The long trip to and from Carrow Road meant spending all but a few hours of last Saturday on the road.
A welcome lazy start to Sunday was interrupted by my seven-year-old son diving on to the bed and without even a ‘morning dad’, asked who I had given starman to!
I had chosen Pearson, there following a chat with the little lad about the virtues of a deep-sitting midfield role.