Preston North End’s home clash with Port Vale tomorrow sees the start of the second half of the season.
The midway point of the League One campaign was reached on Sunday, with North End winning 1-0 at Shrewsbury.
Fourth place after 23 games, five points behind the leaders and four off second and third place, makes for encouraging reading.
Should PNE grow stronger moving from winter into spring, then the season’s finale could well be an exciting time.
Their half-term report is actually a very simple one to write – excellent away, could do better at home.
For Preston it has been a Home and Away soap opera of which Alf and Morag Stewart would be proud.
The form on the road at the moment is forming the foundations of their promotion push.
Eight wins, three draws and a solitary defeat on their travels is an impressive run to say the least.
Only Leyton Orient can better that, having picked up one more point from their extra away game.
At Deepdale, it has been a bit more of a struggle, with four wins, five draws and two defeats.
In some home matches PNE have found it difficult to take the game to the opposition.
Away, they have turned soaking up pressure and going forward on the counter-attack into a work of art.
Since being beaten at Peterborough on October 5 – a game in which they gifted the Posh their two goals – North End have responded superbly on their travels.
Eight games in the league and FA Cup have brought seven wins and a draw – the spoils shared at Crawley after being 2-0 ahead.
Only three goals have been conceded in that run, which is impressive to say the least.
Two 1-0 wins at Christmas can hopefully be followed up by a good performance and victory in front of the home faithful tomorrow.
The Lilywhites squad are all too aware of the contrast in their home and away form.
They would desperately like to put on a better show at Deepdale, marry together the good run on the road with some strong results on their own patch.
Left-back David Buchanan told the Evening Post: “Our away from is fantastic and we are turning up at away games with an expectation to win.
“Our squad is a great group of players –everyone wants us to do well whether they are in the first XI, on the bench or sat in the stand.
“We know about the home form, everyone knows that it could be a lot better.
“Last time out we weren’t good enough against a decent Brentford team who will be up there for the rest of the season.
“On other occasions we have just not finished teams off after being in good positions.
“It is important that we come out of the blocks well on New Year’s Day and give the fans something to shout about.
“The last two away games have seen sell-outs in the away end – 1,700 at Carlisle and then 1,500 against Shrewsbury.
“We have sent them home delirious, and now the supporters at Deepdale deserve a win to celebrate.
“The fans singing ‘The Whites are going up’ at the end of the Shrewsbury game doesn’t put any extra pressure on us. Success is what we play football for and is why we all signed for Preston.
“This is a massive club with a great history and want to get up to the next division.”
Reflecting on the Shrewsbury game – and also some of the other away matches – Buchanan says a degree of patience was needed.
“In the first half I thought that Shrewsbury played well without creating any clear-cut chances.
“We stayed in the game, stayed solid and I thought our second-half performance was deserving of a win.
“In the second half we were always pushing for the goal and created a couple of half chances at the back post.
“Iain Hume came on and asked questions of their defence, and their guy went and put the ball into his own net.
“As the manager has said a few times, there are different ways to win matches.”
Tomorrow’s visitors Port Vale are no slouches when it comes to away games.
They have won five games on their travels in the league this season and lost six – they have not drawn away.
Said Buchanan: “Port Vale are good away from home. They are a big, strong team who play on the counter-attack and have some dangerous players.
“It is important that we get ourselves going at home and take the game to them.
“The Christmas games have gone well for us so far.
“We responded in the right way to being beaten at Brentford, and getting a win tomorrow would be a great way to start the New Year.”
Two strong performances should see Buchanan retain his place tomorrow.
He got the nod over Scott Laird at Carlisle and stayed in for the Shrewsbury game, catching the eye in both.