Just when it seemed like some calm had settled over Preston’s goalkeeping position, it has become a hot topic of debate again this week.
The red card for Chris Maxwell – and Paul Gallagher pulling on the green jersey and gloves at Ipswich last Saturday – has had us talking keepers.
When the teamsheet is published ahead of North End’s clash with Bristol City, that could stir more debate.
It was very much a case of ‘jeepers keepers’ at Portman Road last Saturday.
A keeper being sent off is not uncommon but seeing red for two bookings is quite unusual, I would wager.
Maxwell committed two fouls and was punished for both, a feat unlikely to befall an outfield player.
I felt his first yellow card was a touch harsh, the award of the penalty a sufficient punishment.
For the second caution and subsequent red, Maxwell was the author of his own downfall.
Knowing he was on a booking, irrespective of any sense of injustice, he just couldn’t afford to rush out of his box and put in the tackle which he did.
What Maxwell’s actions did do was make for a lively final 20 minutes at Portman Road.
Gallagher volunteered himself to be North End’s emergency keeper and did a rather good job.
He produced a fine save from Danny Rowe, launched a couple of goalkicks upfield and collected a cross or two.
I’m not sure that I agreed with Gallagher post-match though, when he admitted to a sense of disappointment at ‘only’ seven minutes being added on at the end – such was the good time he was having between the sticks.
I certainly was not alone among those of a Preston persuasion in the ground in wanting the referee to blow his whistle quickly!
It was good fun to reflect on afterwards but totally nerve-wracking every time the ball went into the North End half.
Maxwell has to sit out the Bristol City game because of suspension and until Alex Neil did his press conference on Thursday, the assumption was that Declan Rudd would step back into the team.
But Neil threw Michael Crowe’s name into the mix, saying there was a genuine choice between him and Rudd to make.
I still think he will go with Rudd , the name-check for Crowe an acknowledgement of the good things he is doing in training.
However, you could read it as Neil not being entirely comfortable with putting Rudd in.
It was Rudd who started the season as first choice but he lost his place to Maxwell in September.
They have played eight Championship games each this season, very much a case of sharing the gloves.
On the evidence of this season, I would say Preston’s defence is better suited to having Maxwell behind it.
His sweeper-keeper style enables him to mop up, even if he did take things too far at Ipswich.
The defence can play a slightly higher line with the Welshman comfortable to play in the space behind.
Maxwell being in the side has coincided with results picking up, the team as a whole playing with more confidence.
Should Rudd be picked at Ashton Gate, it is his chance to put pressure on Maxwell and make Neil’s choice a tough one when it comes to picking a keeper for the clash with Blackburn Rovers after the international break.
While the mistakes which crept into his game towards the end of August and into September have been well highlighted, to be fair to Rudd he started the season in decent form.
He made that fine save late on in the campaign’s opener against QPR, then saved the penalty the next week at Swansea.
Crowe’s name being in the mix is a curve ball, by reason of a lack of involvement in the first-team picture since his summer arrival.
An injury sustained in pre-season sidelined him for a while.
There is no reason why he shouldn’t challenge for a place though.
If, as Neil says, Crowe has shown well in training, he is in the mix just as any outfield player would be.
A few Preston supporters have raised the question of whether a third goalkeeper is needed in the squad.
While Maxwell’s ban is only for one match, it is such times when cover is needed.
Having the extra keeper is a belt-and-braces exercise in many ways.
Imagine the scenario had either Maxwell or Rudd got an injury of any seriousness after the transfer window had closed.
Without Crowe, they would be down to one senior keeper.
I doubt that he is using up much of the budget and he’s at an age – 23 next week – where there is plenty of time for him to develop.
Here’s hoping for a quieter afternoon on the goalkeeper front, Gallagher going in pegs enough excitement for the time being.
Just returning to the topic of an outfield player going in goal, it has happened before several times at Preston but more to cover injury rather than a red card.
Mickey Norbury, Gareth Ainsworth and Willie Naughton are three I can remember answering the call.