FOUR things we learned from Preston North End’s win away to Coventry City
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1. Job done
North End are officially safe in the Championship.
It is the last thing that we want to be saying at this stage of the season, as that even being relevant is a sign of how the campaign has gone, but it is relevant nevertheless. Tumbling down the table going into the final international break and no change in form looking likely, Alex Neil was relieved of his duties and his former assistant Frankie McAvoy stepped up.
Form has improved and now everyone around Preston can breathe a sigh of relief.
Before Saturday’s game they were all but safe, the best Derby could do was draw level on points and an almighty goal-difference swing would have had to occur, but it was still possible.
2. Is McAvoy the man?
A lot of the credit for PNE’s safety has to go to Frankie McAvoy – no matter how much he attempts to deflect it on to his players. The threat of playing in League One was only getting more and more real when he stepped up to be the top man for the first time.
Also a man from the previous regime, it could have made things for difficult for him to inject energy into a side that looked bereft of confidence and ideas. The opposite has been the case and he’s galvanised the squad.
His fixtures have not been easy and barring a 5-0 defeat to Brentford, he’s come through it very well indeed.
The champions elect and two play-off sides are amongst his six games, from which he has secured three wins, two draws and just one loss – with four clean sheets too.
3. Defensive solidarity
One big change from McAvoy’s stewardship has been PNE’s ability to keep goals out. In the past they were frail in defence and were generally having to score at least twice if they wanted to win.
Now, even when not on their game, North End have a chance of taking at least a point if not nicking it.
They can weather storms and come fighting back.
Daniel Iversen and whatever combination of three centre-backs and two wing backs ahead of him play a huge part in that.
The whole side know what they’re doing though, and tweaks from the touchlione has also seen a change in fortunes mid-game when they’ve looked under pressure. Aside from the tweaks against Brentford.
4. Time to rotate?
Many at PNE will want to put their best foot forward. Be that players with professional pride wanting to play and win as many games as possible, or even the interim head coach hoping to stay in the top job beyond May 8.
There will also be a case to have a look at those with less minutes recently or those with not long left on their deals. The obvious ones that spring to mind are Tom Bayliss, Louis Moult, Billy Bodin, Anthony Gordon and Jayson Molumby.
The latter two are on loan and decisions could be made on trying to recruit them again for next season.
Bayliss still has time left on his deal and was highly rated outside of Deepdale before joining but has found game time scarce.
Bodin and Moult both will be out of contract in the summer but have offered quality in the past.
It doesn’t matter where PNE finish when it comes to prize money, that is split equally. They will now not go down and neither will they make the play-offs, so it would be the perfect time to switch things up.