Dave Seddon’s Preston North End Press View: National media waking up to PNE’s progress

Tom Barkhuizen's winner against Blackburn was a stunning goal
Tom Barkhuizen's winner against Blackburn was a stunning goal

Following a stealth-like existence in the upper reaches of the Championship table these last couple of years, have Preston finally started to register on the radar?

In the 2017/18 campaign they finished in seventh place, just two points shy of the play-off places.

Last season, two strong runs of results carried them to within touching distance of the top six for a time, only for North End to slip away.

Neither of those two happenings attracted anything more than a passing mention outside of Lancashire, the publicity instead lumped elsewhere.

Things appear to be changing – just recently more media have wanted a slice of the PNE action.

Going top of the division with a victory live on Sky Sports, coupled with the speculation surrounding Alex Neil, has done wonders to attract the outside world to what is happening at Deepdale.

There is no such thing as bad publicity and it is about time Preston’s work has a wider audience. It’s been good to read and hear some in-depth features on the Lilywhites, even if it has been done already at local level.

And it has to be said that Neil and his players have come across well in their dealings with the national media – print, radio and television.

‘Stay under the radar’ I hear some of you shout as another broadsheet feature lands on the doormat.

Perhaps that would be nice, North End allowed to get on with their business without too much fuss from the outside.

However, the reality is that the higher you go and the more likely you are to do well, the focus on you will sharpen.

North End’s challenge at the top end of the table is ultimately for a place in the Premier League, not just for decoration.

The attention given to the English top flight is mind boggling and at the moment PNE look like they are doing their best to force their way upwards.

Nothing is won or lost after 16 games, but being in second place having reached the third international break of the campaign is not done by any fluke.

Fans of other teams might like to believe that is the case.

The common theme of a Saturday teatime or Tuesday night is that Preston have won only by a gross miscarriage of justice.

We hear it time and time again – North End slowed the game down, they are physical, well organised, aggressive.

Indeed they can manage a game well, they can bare their teeth and do have the ability to keep the opposition at arms’ length.

Preston can also play too, they can score goals. Five times they have scored three goals in a home game this season. They also put five past Barnsley.

Think of some of the movement and build-up for the goals. That Barnsley game for example, sweeping from one box to the other with the ball on the ground all the time until it left Ben Pearson’s foot to find the roof of the net.

Think of Alan Browne’s pass down the right channel to free Sean Maguire in the Leeds game, the Irishman then able to tee up Tom Barkhuizen to score.

What about Barkhuizen’s pearler against Blackburn?

Cast your minds back to last week’s victory over Huddersfield and the second goal – Browne’s back heel, Gallagher finding Ryan Ledson – Ledson picking out Barkhuizen on the wing and the cross from Barkhuizen to find Browne. Hardly route-one stuff was it?

North End have the ability to go direct should they wish.

That worked well against Rovers and Charlton with Jayden Stockley up front.

It was more subtle in the Huddersfield game, Stockley used more to turn the ball out wide and build from there.

Nearly forgot! Preston get too many penalties – that was one accusation I read last week after an eighth spot-kick hit the net. I would wager all have been cast-iron penalties this season.

At Swansea in August, poor old Sean Maguire was knocked three junctions back along the M4 by a challenge which led to the first of the eight which came their way. Browne was pulled back when through on goal against Rovers.

The second penalty given against Bristol City, so too last week in the Huddersfield game, were blatant handballs and not just under this season’s new guidelines.

At the moment, Preston are where they are on merit and rightly getting some attention for being there.

There is a lot of football ahead, plenty of water to flow under the bridge yet.

If later in the campaign they are still being talked about, written about and in some cases, moaned about, it could just be that PNE are on the verge of something exciting.

Meanwhile, BBC Sport ran a poll in the build-up to England’s 1,000th game this week to pick the best England XI.

The moment I saw no Sir Tom Finney, no Sir Stanley Matthews, no Geoff Hurst, no Nobby Stiles, no Terry Butcher, no Billy Wright, no Bryan Robson, no David Nugent – only kidding – it became irrelevant. Ashley Cole made it in, though.