The time of the season has arrived when fans get their chance to cast their vote for Preston North End’s player of the year.
Voting closes on Sunday night and the awards will be handed out before the final game of the regular season against Burton on May 6.
For me, it is between Ben Pearson and Alan Browne for the main award – there is also the young player award and goal of the season.
Just at the moment I’m leaning slightly in favour of Browne but Pearson still has time to change my mind.
The pair have been key figures in different ways in the North End midfield.
Pearson makes Preston tick, his personality on the pitch almost reflecting that of manager Alex Neil.
He’s aggressive, driven, a bundle of energy, a complete pain in the backside to play against.
Browne cuts a somewhat calmer figure but this term has developed his game to the extent where he is one of the first names on North End’s team sheet.
You could say that the Irishman has taken his game forward – literally – to do so.
Last season Browne didn’t score a single goal, so far this term he has got eight in all competitions.
That is a big turn around, helped by Neil moving him into the No.10 role for the majority of the campaign.
Others deserve notable mentions – Ben Davies, Paul Huntington and Darnell Fisher.
Had Sean Maguire not had his campaign so rudely interrupted by injury, he would be right up there in the voting.
Davies gets my nod as young player of the year in what has been the defender’s breakthrough season as a Preston player.
But when it comes back to where I put the ‘X’ in the box, it is between Pearson and Browne.
If you are to factor in a few negatives as to why Pearson might not get it, his downfall is all those yellow cards.
He has served three bans this season – the first for his sending off against Leeds in August, then for totting up five yellows and later for 10 cautions.
To be fair, PNE have only lost one game which Pearson has missed through either suspension or injury – the loss at Derby which followed the Leeds red card.
But there is no arguing that North End are a better side with Pearson in it – no Pearo, no party, as the saying goes.
A goal or two would be nice from him but his game is all about what he does a bit further back.
He wins the ball and helps build play, the 22-year-old a vital layer of the intense press which Neil demands of his team.
Pearson can play – he’s not just a whirlwind of wild hair and beard.
His team-mate Browne is one of the North End players to have perhaps benefited most from last summer’s change of manager.
He was doing fine under Simon Grayson and had the appearances to show that in the three-and-a-half years working under him.
But Grayson used him mainly in a deeper role, one he actually did very well in at Queens Park Rangers last week.
Neil quickly identified him as someone who could best be used higher up the pitch.
On the opening day of the campaign against Sheffield Wednesday, Browne was used in an advanced role to help stifle the effectiveness of Owls’ playmaker Barry Bannan who sat deep.
As Neil tweaked things over the next few weeks to the 4-2-3-1 we mostly see now, Browne was played in the No.10 role. How a No.10 is used does differ between clubs – Browne is not the fancy flicks-type seen elsewhere.
Neil sees him more for his energy levels, the first part of the press.
Browne has added goals to his play, a variety of them too.
Three of his are in the poll for goal of the season and were all belters in their own right.
There was the 45-yard shot against Cardiff City, the volley at Wycombe in the FA Cup and then the chip in the win over Bristol City.
In addition there have been a trio of headers and two penalties.
Was his the final touch at QPR? Judging by how loudly the ‘Baluga’ song was sung by the travelling PNE fans at that end of Loftus Road, we’ll give him the benefit.
Browne will have a good chance of goal of the season, with three on the entry list.
When looking through the options though, I could not helped but be impressed by Daniel Johnson’s goal at Birmingham – the powerful run and swept finish.
Across Lancashire, what a night it was at Accrington Stanley on Tuesday as they clinched promotion from League Two.
I visited the Crown Ground twice with PNE last summer, in a pre-season friendly and then the League Cup tie a few weeks later.
The welcome was warm behind the scenes on both occasions, the rush to meet print deadlines done in the comfort of the directors’ lounge – a brew and slice of pizza offered to help the match report writing along.
After the friendly, a deal to sign a triallist who had scored that night was struck in the most matter of fact way in front of us!
Well done Accy on a job extremely well done.