EXCLUSIVE Sean Gregan Preston North End column: Lack of goals is a worry in play-off race
It was always going to be a tall order for Preston to return from trips to West Bromwich Albion and Fulham with a significant points haul.
The Baggies are top of the Championship and have one of the best home records in the league, although I know they were surprisingly beaten by Wigan Athletic at the weekend, which was a bit of a coupon buster.
I thought going into that game, North End were capable of getting a point but it wasn’t to be unfortunately.
Reading some of the reports and watching the highlights from the game against Fulham, it looked as though Alex Neil’s men were a little unlucky.
A flukey own goal at the near post from a corner, when the ball flew off David Nugent’s head, was a big blow especially as North End had created some good openings in the first period.
Sean Maguire looked unlucky to have a goal chalked off for offside and if that would have stood, I would have fancied PNE to go on and win.
As it is they ended up with nothing to show for their efforts from both games.
It is always important whether you are at the top end or the bottom end to pick up points against the teams around you, so in that respect, they are two pretty disappointing results.
But with the way the Championship is, PNE remain in a play-off position and it’s still all to play for.
I think where North End could fall down in the final run-in is their lack of an out-and-out goalscorer. They have failed to score in three of their last four league games and that’s a bit of a worry to me.
Striker Tom Barkhuizen and midfielder Daniel Johnson will be pleased with their goal returns so far this season, but I think the rest would probably have hoped to have done better.
Nugent has only got one, Maguire has got four and Jayden Stockley has chipped in with two. I think other teams up there have someone pushing towards 20. Brentford’s front three are in double figures – Ollie Watkins has scored 22.
That could prove to be the difference, but I have said this many times over the years, those kind of players cost a lot of money.
And the problem is when Preston develop a striker, they often lose them for big money as we have seen with Jordan Hugill and Callum Robinson, who left for West Ham United and Sheffield United respectively in recent seasons.
I have been a little surprised by the lack of goals from Nugent – but his season has been a tad stop-start and as a striker you do need game time. What he will be doing is making a big difference around the training ground in terms of giving the younger players the benefit of his experience.
I think if you look at his record over the years since leaving Preston in 2007, he’s scored goals but you wouldn’t call him prolific.
But I fancy Nugent to have a say in matters over the remainder of the season.
It will be great if he can get his second goal against QPR at home this weekend.
Rangers still have an outside chance of reaching the play-offs and PNE must kill those ambitions off once and for all by winning which i think they will.