Alan Browne is expecting a big performance from Preston North End as Bournemouth come to town

It would be no surprise to see Preston North End turn it on against the big boys this weekend as promotion favourites Bournemouth come to Deepdale.

By Tom Sandells
Friday, 4th March 2022, 12:30 pm

It has been the way for some time that PNE do well against those near the top end of the division but falter against those that they ‘should’ beat near the foot of the table.

Alan Browne admits that has been the way since he joined the club and he was a part of the North End side that ended Bournemouth’s impressive unbeaten start to the season in November, winning 2-1 at the Vitality Stadium.

"It's been like that for a few years, we always dig out results and put in really good performances against the top teams,” Browne told the Lancashire Post.

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Alan Browne embraces Daniel Johnson after the latter tucked his penalty away.

"Maybe they're not expecting it or we're really up for it, I don't know why it is.

"Then we'd go to bottom of the league the next week and probably lose, like you saw against Reading.

"For us, it's pleasing that we do well against top teams but you've got to take advantage and build on those results.

"That's where we've slipped up this season.

Preston North End captain Alan Browne in action against Coventry City.

"Looking at performances, when teams sit in we seem to be unable to break them down, whereas the top teams are always going to come and take risks on the ball and you can exploit that.

"You can see the passages of play and what they're good at and where their weaknesses are. But some teams might play someone near them in the table and be expansive, then play someone else and sit in so it can be hard to know what teams are going to do.

"That's where we've struggled a lot, going forward they're the types of games we need to win if we're going to go anywhere.”

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Browne has been in good form in the centre of the park for Preston, forming a formidable trio with Daniel Johnson and Ben Whiteman.

There have been times where the three have looked second best and cannot get a grip of the game, however in time they generally come good inside the 90 minutes.

Coventry City looked much the better side in the opening exchanges last week but PNE would come into the game to have the better of it.

Browne and central midfield partner Johnson are having to adapt their games slightly under their new manager, who likes to scope out the opposition a little bit as the game begins, which is betryed slightly by their natural, high energy game.

“The manager has touched on that. We're coming out of a phase where under Alex Neil it was press, press, press,” Browne said.

"But over the years, we have had players that have come in who might sit in, the likes of myself and Daniel Johnson like to press so we might do that, but no one is backing us and then you get popped off.

"The gaffer has pulled us about that, he's said we don't need to go chasing and we can sit in and give them 10 minutes of the ball, let them have it but keep them in front of you and they can't hurt you.

"We've adapted to that - you can make a few passes but when we get it we're going to hurt you. For the players who worked under Alex, that was what we were good at and we've stuck to what we are good at.

"It's just about adapting now and learning what the manager wants and his way of playing, everyone is different. It's served us well lately to let the opposition have it and then counter when we do have it back.”

Saturday’s game at Deepdale will see the return of Ben Pearson to Deepdale for the first time with fans in the ground.

The midfielder played against North End last season but due to Covid all games were behind closed doors.

One of the best players to play for the Lilywhites in the modern era, Pearson was a key man for several years at PNE but has since found game time much harder to come by on the south coast.

He left for the Cherries just over 12 months ago, moving as he reached the final six months of his contract having decided he would not be extending.

Much loved on the terraces in Preston for his tenacious, tough-tackling style, Browne felt short changed the last time the two met and is looking to try and get more out of his former teammate this time around – and is not afraid to poke the bear.

He said: “When he went there, he probably expected to play every game but the quality that they have around them is top drawer.

"We think we have competition for places but if Pearo is not getting in then you can only imagine what it's like there.

"He's probably finding it tough, settling in is always difficult as well. You can't knock how good a player he is, that just shows how strong they really are.

“I don't know what it is, whether he bottles it a little bit when he plays us, but he doesn't get around as much as he used to when he was with us.

"He's not that horrible player, I'm trying to wind him up but he's not saying anything back to me, he's just getting on with his game.

"Usually he'd be pinching you or stepping on your toes or whatever, just being a horrible player. He's just different when he plays against us.

"Maybe it's because he knows that we know what he's like. I know he can lose his head so I always try to get a bit out of him!

"I don't know if he's maturing but I can't seem to get much out of him. In terms of quality he's obviously a top player, so it's tough.”

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