Dave Seddon's Preston North End press view: Making a case for longer stays for Darnell Fisher and Paul Huntington
Preston’s clinical picking apart of Reading which saw them end the Royals’ 100% home record, rightly earned plenty of attention.
Alex Neil’s men in green were clinical in the 3-0 win, Scott Sinclair, Emil Riis and Brad Potts putting away their chances.
To put three goals past a side who hadn’t conceded in their previous four league games at the Madejski Stadium, was impressive.
What should not be overlooked either is the clean sheet, just North End’s second in Championship action this season.
Declan Rudd made a good first-half save from Lucas Joao’s header but in the main, the PNE keeper was well protected by the four defenders in front of him – Darnell Fisher, Paul Huntington, Jordan Storey and Joe Rafferty.
Describing that as being a makeshift defence might be doing the quartet a disservice.
But had you picked your first-choice back four ahead of the start of the season, that foursome would not have been it I doubt.
I’d just to focus on the first two names there, Fisher and Huntington, if I can.
Fisher is arguably the best full-back in the squad and is now in his fourth season at Deepdale since arriving for a nominal fee from Rotherham United – this weekend’s opponents for PNE.
He adds forward drive from the right-back slot and his assist numbers are quite decent. In September, ‘The Fish’ got on the scoresheet for the first time.
North End are better with Fisher in the team than without him, even though injuries and his liking for a yellow card means you have to accept he won’t be available for every game.
I do find it a bit puzzling that Fisher doesn’t seem to have been flagged up as a priority in terms of being offered a new contract.
His current deal is up next June, likewise Daniel Johnson, Alan Browne, Ben Pearson, Ben Davies and a few others.
You might not bracket Fisher with those four in terms of wage level and potential sale revenue but his importance to the side is up there.
When North End do get a bit narrow, Fisher has the tools to push upfield and provide width, in line with the modern-day full-back.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s not perfect but with PNE shopping with the budget they do, finding a right-back replacement with similar traits to Fisher, could be difficult.
Rafferty lets no one down when he plays there but is more of a defensive right-back than one who will drive forward on the outside.
Turning to Huntington, the love which the North End supporters feel for him was evident in the aftermath of winning at Reading.
The same feelings were evident from Alex Neil, one look at the smile on the PNE manager’s face during the post-match press conference when the subject turned to Huntington, told a story.
In Huntington, you have an experienced defender who can come into the side at the drop of a hat and not let anyone down.
This was his first start in the league since July, with him having come on a sub at half-time against Millwall the week before.
Huntington was excellent in the Reading game, the older steady head next to the younger Storey.
He’s also in the final few months of his contract and perhaps with him being 33, a decision on a new one might only be made later in the season.
But if the Cumbrian Cannavaro is capable of what he did on Wednesday night, a new deal must be worth looking at.
North End have used the experience of Huntington’s team-mate Paul Gallagher to good effect, so it might be they can do the same with the defender.
For the longer term, PNE are always going to generally favour the younger end of the transfer market.
There’s room for older heads though, experience important in any dressing room.
A younger defender such as Storey will benefit from having Huntington next to him, whether in training or a game.
Talk to any of the Preston midfielders and they say how much Gallagher has helped them develop. It’s 285 appearances and counting for Huntington in a Preston shirt. He could well make it 286 at Rotherham.
Seeing him one day hit the 300-game mark would be something no North End fan would begrudge him.
Huntington is in his ninth season at PNE, it being back in July 2012 that he joined.
He’s needed to make a few comebacks along the way, the last week or so another example.
Just to finish off this week’s offering, I’m in the privileged position of being able to attend games in this behind-closed-doors era which has gone on longer than anyone imagined.
For the first time since football returned after the initial lockdown, the curse of the motorway closure struck me after the Reading game.
A 1.30am tour of Stafford behind a line of HGVs wasn’t the best – it’s a good job North End had won!
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