Preston North End talking points ahead of a busy run of fixtures

Preston winger Tom Barkhuizen competes for the ball against Huddersfield
Preston winger Tom Barkhuizen competes for the ball against Huddersfield

It has been an international break to enjoy for Preston North End, with them sat in second place in the Championship table and on the back of three wins on the bounce.

Action resumes at Derby County on Saturday in what is a busy spell at the end of November and throughout December – nine matches in total.

Preston manager Alex Neil

Preston manager Alex Neil

Here we reflect on recent results and look ahead to the games coming up and the challenges they pose.

1. PNE’s run of three wins on the bounce is something they have only done twice before in the league Alex Neil’s time as Deepdale manager.

In March, they beat Blackburn, Middlesbrough and Birmingham in the space of a week.

During December 2017, Neil’s first season here, North End beat Queens Park Rangers, Burton Albion and Sheffield United in successive games.

Paul Gallagher scores from the penalty spot against Huddersfield at Deepdale

Paul Gallagher scores from the penalty spot against Huddersfield at Deepdale

If they could go to Pride Park and beat Derby to make it four wins in a row, that would be a huge boost.

History shows Preston’s record after an international break isn’t the best.

Why that is the case is a bit of a mystery but it will be something Neil will have looked at.

They returned from the September break to beat Brentford at Deepdale but in October lost 1-0 at Reading in a dreadful game.

2. The Derby game is followed by another away trip, with North End crossing the M62 to visit Hull City a week on Wednesday.

Whereas their away form has generally been their strength in recent seasons, this time it is a strong record at Deepale which has laid the foundations for an impressive first three months of the campaign.

Neil’s men have taken eight points on the road, winning at Birmingham and Charlton – both 1-0 – and drawing against Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough. In both those draws, they had taken the lead.

Two of the three defeats on the road came in the first two away matches against Millwall and Swansea.

So things have picked up, the Reading defeat being the blip on their recent travels.

If North End can continue with their strong home form and be solid away, it will keep them heading in the right direction.

After Derby and Hull, their away games in December are at QPR, Cardiff and Leeds – the visit to Elland Road a teatime kick-off on Boxing Day.

3. With a busy run between now and the turn of the year, the depth of the squad will no doubt be key.

Neil isn’t afraid to tweak the line-up from game to game after sizing-up the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses.

It is going forward where he tends to change things, so there could be opportunities for Billy Bodin, Josh Harrop and David Nugent as the weeks go by.

Jayden Stockley getting off the mark for the season against Huddersfield was a big positive, the striker able to add a goal to his work rate.

Keeping the goals coming is vital and the more players chipping in, the better.

We are all just waiting for that Nugent goal now!