Dave Seddon’s Press View: Time to vote for Preston North End player of the season
Preston North End launched their player of the year vote this week and in reality it is a narrow field of candidates.
To call North End’s season inconsistent would be a touch generous because at times it’s been woeful.
The worrying slide down the table has been halted this last week with two very good results over Easter.
Hopefully the remaining six games will be about more points being put on the board rather than any worry about what is happening below them in the table.
There have been few stand-out players this season who are genuinely pushing for the fans’ vote as player of the year.
I’d say it was two-way battle between Ryan Ledson and Daniel Iversen.
Ledson has cut a pretty consistent figure over the course of the season, with Iversen so impressive since arriving on loan in January from Leicester City.
A loanee has won player of the year before, in 2016/17 Aiden McGeady was the pick of the PNE supporters.
So to suggest Iversen as winner isn’t being daft, even if his stay is half a season compared to McGeady’s full campaign.
Other than those two, no one has particularly stood out as a consistent performer.
Alan Browne has had consistency of selection, his 32 starts matched only by Scott Sinclair.
However, Browne’s displays have not reached the level they were when he won player of the year in the 2017/18 season.
Sinclair as leading scorer might attract a few votes but he’s not hit the heights with any regularity.
This has been a season when Ledson has come into his own at Deepdale, a coming of age year almost.
No longer regarded as a Ben Pearson stand-in, we started to see more of a passing range from him.
There’s been a greater maturity to his game even though Blackburn’s Tyrhys Dolan might disagree with that statement after being on the end of a shuddering tackle from Ledson in February’s derby.
Leadership is something Ledson has added to his personality, not just in the sense of being given the captain’s armband earlier in the week.
Talk to people around the Euxton training ground and he’s become a big figure there. In January when new faces arrived regularly, Ledson was one of the main meeters and greeters.
Of the eight games he missed with a torn calf muscle in February and March, North End won just one of them.
As for Iversen, he’s added his name to the list of impressive goalkeepers PNE have taken on loan.
Jordan Pickford and Sam Johnstone are two of the others, both now playing in the Premier League.
Iversen is on the same pathway should his form continue along the lines we’ve seen at Deepdale these last few months.
He has made some superb saves to keep North End in games and didn’t allow the slide down the table to knock his confidence.
The win at Swansea was a rarity in that he didn’t have a single shot to save, his 10 outfield team-mates protecting him well.
Voting for the player of the year is taking place on PNE’s official website, with the poll closing at midnight on Sunday, April 18.
The goal of the season vote is a bit less clear cut, with some fine goals in the running.
Sinclair’s 40-yarder at Bournemouth and Jayden Stockley’s chest down and volley against Birmingham are the two long range goals on the 10-strong shortlist.
There’s Ched Evans’ howitzer at Millwall, Browne’s last-gasp winner at Derby at Boxing Day.
Sinclair finding the net at the end of a counter-attack against Huddersfield is the nod to a well-worked team goal.
The joy I felt just before 4.55pm on Monday made me tempted to demand Matt Grimes’ own goal be put on the ballot paper. North End simply don’t ‘do’ winning at Swansea – well they didn’t until this week.
Five previous vists to the Liberty Stadium had brought five defeats. The last time PNE had beaten Swansea outside of Deepdale was at Villa Park in the semi-final of the FA Cup in 1964.
Their last win at the Vetch Field, Swansea’s old home, had been in August 1961, an absolutely ridiculously long time ago.
A stoppage-time own goal might have given the wrong impression that it was some sort of scrambled, barely deserved win.
Far from it. Preston smothered Swansea’s front three – Andre Ayew, Morgan Whittaker and Jamal Lowe hardly getting a sniff.
Lowe hurdling Iversen and going to ground as he chased a ball into the box, earning himself a yellow card for simulation, was the one big moment for the home attack.
The three points gathered in South Wales, added to the Good Friday draw with Norwich, has made for an impressive start to Frankie McAvoy’s stewardship.
McAvoy has done what a good caretaker/interim boss should do. He’s brought some of his own ideas to the table without at the same time ripping up everything which has gone before.
He had to make a change to show that things were not just being allowed to carry on unchecked.
McAvoy’s significant change has been to play two up front, pairing Emil Riis with Ched Evans.
A front central pair wasn’t favoured in general by Alex Neil, except on the occasions he went 3-5-2.
Many North End fans have yearned to see two strikers, the clamour growing ever stronger in the last few games of Neil’s reign when the ball was being banged up to Evans operating alone.
It’s too early to be talking about McAvoy getting the job full-time but I would say he’s in pole position as things stand – even if the bookies have other people ahead of him in the betting.
There are six more games to play, more time to impress and get his ideas across.