Preston’s clash with Ipswich this weekend will be a meeting of two sides who have strung together a run of consistency over the last three months.
The Lilywhites have lost only four of their last 16 games in the Championship, with Mick McCarthy’s men losing just two in 14.
While both did not break any pots in the FA Cup last week – the Tractor Boys were held 2-2 at home by Portsmouth and PNE lost 2-0 to Peterborough – recent results in the league have been strong.
Simon Grayson takes his side to Suffolk on the back of three consecutive wins and Ipswich have won three of their last four, with a goalless draw at Burnley thrown in.
Taking that into account, the one thing that should not be in short supply on Saturday is confidence.
When Preston beat Bristol City 2-1 on Tuesday night, Ipswich won by the same scoreline against Leeds.
They had to battle back from what McCarthy described as a ‘bonkers start’, conceding a goal after only 12 seconds.
Luke Chambers equalised for Ipswich early in the second half before Brett Pitman struck two minutes into stoppage time to net the winner.
McCarthy said: “It was a bonkers start and a magnificent end to a really good game, one that we thoroughly deserved to win, I might add, so it was a fitting end in my view.
“Weird’s a good word for it, conceding after 12 seconds.
“I thought they obviously started well, they got the goal, but it was just a mistake and they finished it well.
“I thought for 10 or 15 minutes they were probably slightly the better team. I think after that we’ve been different class, their keeper made all sorts of saves and we deserved to win. I thought we created enough chances to win two games, to be honest with you.”
McCarthy was pleased to see one of his substitutions pay off, with Pitman scoring the winner.
He had replaced Daryl Murphy and both strikers are now on seven league goals for the season.
“It’s great when they work, isn’t it?” McCarthy said.
“I’m sure somebody was thinking, ‘What are they taking Murphy off for, he scored lots of goals?’, but we’ve got good substitutes.
“I keep saying, I look behind me and I’ve got players who can make a difference and Brett did.
“You fancy him if it comes in – he’s great header of the ball, he’s a great finisher, but he works at his heading and it was a fabulous finish.”
Pitman scored in Ipswich’s 2-1 win over North End at Deepdale in August, Ryan Fraser on target with the winner.
Reflecting on his midweek goal, Pitman said: “When you get a late winner in any game it’s a great feeling.
“Draws don’t really do anything for you in this league, you need wins, and to string a few together.
“That’s three wins out of four now, and if you add a good point at Burnley then that’s a very good set of games for us.”
Ipswich go into the weekend in fifth place, six points off the automatic promotion places.
MEET THE BOSS:
The experienced Mick McCarthy is now in his fourth year as Ipswich manager, his third anniversary in charge coming in November. He is the 12th longest serving league boss in the English game, Simon Grayson is 14th in that list. His career in management started at Millwall before he stepped on to the international scene and took the Republic of Ireland job. McCarthy guided them to the 2002 World Cup. He returned to club football to take charge of Sunderland and then Wolves, before joining Ipswich.
MEET THE REF:
Simon Hooper from Wiltshire is in charge of PNE’s visit to Ipswich on Saturday. Mr Hooper refereed Preston’s 3-0 win at Charlton in October. He had a Premier League assignment on the opening day of the season, in the middle for Crystal Palace’s win at Norwich.
38 YEARS AGO:
This week in January 1978, Preston beat Plymouth Argyle 5-2 at Deepdale. The goals came from Alex Bruce, Mike Elwiss, Ricky Thomson, Gordon Coleman and Mick Baxter. It was the start of an eight-game unbeaten run for Nobby Stiles’ men.
37 YEARS AGO:
On January 16, 1979, North End knocked First Division Derby County out of the FA Cup in the third round. This was their only game in a six-week spell because of the harsh winter. Two goals from Alex Bruce and a Francis Burns effort delivered a 3-0 win over the Rams in front of a Deepdale crowd of 19,901.
18 YEARS AGO:
David Moyes took charge of his first game as Preston manager this week in January 1998. PNE won 1-0 at Macclesfield in the Auto Windscreens Shield with Lee Cartwright on target.