Dave Seddon’s PNE Press View

Chris Maxwell fails to catch a cross at Fulham which led to the home side's equaliser
Chris Maxwell fails to catch a cross at Fulham which led to the home side's equaliser
Share this article

Alex Neil’s tone, in terms of what Preston can achieve this season, has taken on an air of confidence as the weeks have gone on.

It is not arrogance, nor an over-expectancy, just a belief in the group of the players he is working with and a belief in himself of where he can lead them.

Not for Neil is talk of PNE punching above their weight or having to compete with bigger budgets.

He is strong in his opinion that North End can stand toe to toe with anyone in the Championship and give them a game.

As for budgets, other clubs have spent far more but at 3pm on a Saturday it is 11 v 11 on the pitch and not a competition between 22 grey-suited accountants.

In my match report after the Fulham game last week, I alluded to an answer Neil gave in the post-match press conference.

That for me was evidence of the change of mentality at North End this season.

Neil was asked whether he still regarded the point at Craven Cottage as a good one, despite having been 2-0 up with 20 minutes to go.

His response was a short and firm one, he didn’t see it at all as a point gained.

The fact Fulham were the opponents on their home patch, cut no ice with him.

Neil’s view had not changed by midweek when he faced the media to look ahead to facing Wolves.

His attitude remained as of last Saturday, the message to the squad being to use the frustration felt at Craven Cottage as inspiration to put on a good show at Molineux.

In the press conference, he was also keen to move on from talking about Preston having made a ‘bright start’ to the campaign.

Neil wants what we have seen over the first dozen games to become the norm, not just an early flourish.

He is not saying that for effect – there is a drive and desire to push North End on and that is refreshing to hear.

There will be tests of that ahead, that is the nature of the Championship.

The visit to Wolves is one of them, by reason of their hosts’ lofty position.

A tough assignment yes but one to be relished and not feared.

Returning to the topic of last week’s game at Fulham, the obvious talking point was Chris Maxwell late mistake which handed the Cottagers their 96th-minute equaliser.

It is apt to rake up the old cliché of ‘who’d be a keeper?’ as we look back.

Hindsight is wonderful, with plenty of advice dished out later in that Maxwell should have punched the ball or left the cross for others to deal with.

What Maxwell saw as the ball came over was a chance to claim it – as he had done plenty of times previously in the game – and to bring an end to the game.

Had he caught it, there would have been a lull in play and the chance to launch the ball up-field, no doubt followed by the final whistle.

Should he have punched it? That is not something I have seen him do too much.

Back to Mr Hindsight, and perhaps the best thing would have been to let the defence mop it up.

Had they not done so though, would fingers not have been pointed at the keeper for not commanding his box?

For me, Maxwell has performed to a standard to earn some leeway from fans in terms of this incident.

He will have learned from it and moved on quickly, to dwell on it and over-analyse helps no one.

The goalkeeper role can be a lonely one at times – just ask the young lad in Porto’s nets against Manchester United in the Champions League on Wednesday night.

Moving on to North End’s clash with Wolves, this is a fixture established since time began in football terms.

Founder members of the Football League, this will be the 121st meeting between the two clubs.

My memories down the years of this fixture include an uncomfortable afternoon watching Steve Bull score four goals to help inflict a 6-0 defeat on PNE at a two-sided Molineux.

Much better was the chip from Frank Worthington in the 1986/87 promotion season, which was a joy to behold.

The fixture will have an international flavour about it this time, by reason of Wolves having done a lot of their shopping abroad of late.

Whereas they used to find their players in Tipton and such areas, Portugal seems their market of choice now. Finally, a bit of common sense appeared to come to the fore this week with the Premier League making the decision not to stage games on Christmas Eve. There had been talks about games being staged on December 24, with it falling on a Sunday and Sky wanting their Super Sunday schedule.

The idea gave no thought to supporters – not that they are given consideration at any other time of the year.

That weekend’s fixture card sees some long hauls, for example Liverpool away to Arsenal, Newcastle at West Ham, Tottenham going to Burnley and Chelsea at Everton.

So to have pushed some to Christmas Eve would have been far from festive.

I’m just waiting for when Sky suggest a return to the days of playing on Christmas Day – that would be a real 
turkey of an idea.