Dave Seddon's Press View

Newcastle United's St James' Park is the bespoke ground to visit in the Championship this season without a doubt.

Saturday, 22nd April 2017, 2:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:32 pm
Preston pay a second visit of the season to St James' Park on Monday night

Not often at this level do teams get the chance to play in front of more than 50,000 supporters.

Preston North End head there for a second time in six months on Monday night, and in different ways their fans have had something of a raw deal.

The Lilywhites served up a shocker there in October, thrashed 6-0 in the EFL Cup.

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From up high – very high actually when you bear in mind the location of the away section – 1,442 Prestonians looked down on the mauling.

A side showing nine changes from the previous league game at Norwich, were torn apart.

For 65 minutes, North End operated with 10 men after Alan Browne jumped at Jack Colback with his elbow and saw red.

That night was a raw deal for the travelling fans and this time they have been dealt a similar hand but for different reasons.

With five weeks’ notice, PNE’s visit to Tyneside was moved for live coverage on Sky Sports.

The move of kick-off time by nearly 53 hours kiboshed travel and weekend plans.

Many had planned a night on the Toon but a switch to Monday night pulled the shutters down on that.

Friday night, Saturday dinnertime or Saturday teatime might have meant a slight adjustment of plans but nothing major.

Even Sunday would have been do-able for those who wished to combine football with a night or two away.

But Monday night? I trust Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville won’t be gracing our screens, forensically examining the play of Tommy Spurr and Paul Gallagher.

A visit on Saturday or Sunday would have seen a full away section.

As it is, the change to Monday night saw Preston request the smaller of the two allocations offered, with only 450 tickets sold to date.

While I understand Sky wanting to show Newcastle at this crucial stage of the campaign, no consideration has been given to PNE.

There will be a broadcast fee heading the club’s way but not a huge amount.

It is a shame the game could not be accommodated on Saturday or Sunday.

For most of a North End persuasion, they will have to become armchair or barstool fans for the night.

On the playing front, the club head to St James’ Park without some key players.

Greg Cunningham and Tom Clarke are injured, Ben Pearson and Alex Baptiste suspended.

The injuries suffered by Clarke and Cunningham, so too Baptiste’s absence, have left North End short at the back.

It puts into focus an area of the squad which will need work in the transfer market this summer.

With Clarke out of the equation until early 2018 at best – as late as March worst case scenario – and Baptiste and Tyias Browning being on loan, it leaves Andy Boyle and Paul Huntington as the only two fit and fully signed-up central defenders on the books at present.

Spurr can play in there, then there is Ben Davies to come back from Fleetwood where he’s done well.

Two centre-backs should be on the summer shopping list.

Baptiste and Browning will be under consideration for the middle.

Although Browning was recruited on loan with a 
view to playing primarily at right-back, the lad is a centre-half by trade and has pace.

Likewise Baptiste, he was used as a right-back for the majority of his games before January’s injury but is more comfortable in the middle.

Calum Woods will return in pre-season to compete with Marnick Vermijl for the right-back slot.

So that might allow the focus to go on what happens in the centre.

Staying with the subject of which areas could need strengthening, where else will Simon Grayson want to do his shopping?

Another goalkeeper will be on the list, bearing in mind Anders Lindegaard’s contract ends in June and he won’t be getting a new deal.

His absence from the bench against Norwich was telling, Mathew Hudson on the subs’ list instead.

Grayson’s answer to 
questions on that subject post match definitely had a read-between-the-lines element to it.

Will another midfielder be needed, despite it being a decently stocked area when the season began?

It has not worked out for Ben Pringle, while we did not see much of Liam Grimshaw in midfield before he was loaned out to Chesterfield.

A torn calf muscle has kept John Welsh sidelined since October and with Ben Pearson a bit too fond of a yellow card – thus liable to a suspension or two – another body in midfield would not go amiss.

Aiden McGeady is clearly a major summer target, then there’s the 20-goal-a-season striker which every club wants but are not necessarily easy to find.

Work to be done then but let us not take out eye off the last three games – a strong finish to the season is what is desired, even though the play-offs are beyond reach.