PNE are on the up: Five things we've learned over the last month
Reporter Adam Lord looks at how Preston North End have turned things around in the last few weeks.
Goals are coming from all over the park
Every manager dreams of having a 25-goal-a-season striker.
A lot of PNE fans hoped Simon Grayson was going to be able to snap one up before the end of the August transfer window.
That wasn’t the case with the Deepdale boss insisting if more chances were created goals would come.
There hasn’t been a glut, 12 coming in the last seven games, but they are coming from all over the park.
Tom Clark and Alex Baptiste are amongst the scorers since the start of September while Ben Pearson also got his first PNE goal against Aston Villa.
With Simon Makienok bursting into life at Bournemouth the midfield chipping in and Jordan Hugill becoming ever more dependable leading the line the signs are good even if there is still room for improvement.
Brentford defeat a wake-up call
The 5-0 hammering at Brentford was a result that looked like it would make or break PNE’s season.
The shocking late collapse at Griffin Park could have kick-started a real slide.
Grayson put it down to a late aberration, with his side recklessly pushing forward, and vowed it would never happen again.
Thankfully for North End fans that has been the case thus far, with the Brentford humbling seemingly inspiring PNE to tighten up and find some consistency.
Prior to that Preston had failed to build on any positive results but Grayson’s heaviest defeat as Deepdale boss seems to have been a real wake-up call.
It’s a squad game
Having talked since the start of the season about the options at his disposal, September has been the month where the depth of the PNE squad has come to the fore.
Several players got their chance in the league cup win at Bournemouth with some not letting go of the shirt since.
Chris Maxwell looks to be establishing himself as the man between the sticks while Makienok’s hat-trick at Dean Court came out of nowhere.
It was also the game where Bailey Wright got back up and running after injury and Pearson came back into the reckoning, the midfielder capping a fine couple of weeks with his first North End goal against Aston Villa.
Now, as we enter a really tough period, with games to come against Brighton, Huddersfield, Norwich and Newcastle, the PNE line-up is going to be more of a talking point than ever.
Grayson will continue to shift systems
The options in terms of personnel mean that Grayson looks set to continually tinker with his system.
Three central defenders looks to be the way to go away from home, irrespective of any previous performance on home soil, while at Deepdale we’ve seen the rarely spotted 4-4-2 and 4-1-4-1 systems.
The question is often asked of managers as the whether they know their best XIs.
Grayson probably doesn’t but will be confident he can set up in several different ways for the various tough challenges to come.
October will tell us even more about PNE
Grayson’s side may have found some real form in September but having started October so well against Aston Villa the rest of this month will give us a good indication of just how good the Deepdale men can be this season.
Over the next three weeks North End will play the current top four in the Championship.
The visit to Brighton kicks things off before games against Huddersfield, Norwich and Newcastle, PNE facing the Magpies twice in the same week in league and cup.
On paper it looks the most daunting run of the season but if PNE can come out on the other side with a positive set of results then expectations will really start to rise at Deepdale.
On the flip side, picking up only a handful of points between now and the end of the month shouldn’t lead to any doom and gloom.
It will be fascinating to see how PNE fare.