Preston North End midfielder aims for improvement in away form to start at Bournemouth
Preston North End could not have asked for a more testing game as they aim to crank their Championship away form into life.
Awaiting the Lilywhites on the south coast are a Bournemouth side who have yet to taste defeat in the league this season.
PNE go there having taken 15 of their 18 points from games at Deepdale.
The decent home form is a positive but results on their travels are a concern, even if performances have sometimes deserved better.
North End midfielder Ben Whiteman accepts that they have to be better travellers in order to climb the table.
And he’s looking forward to the challenge which playing Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium will offer.
Whiteman said: “We know our away form has to improve, we need to collect some more points.
“When you look at the games we’ve taken points from, Sheffield United we played well and scored in the last minute to get a draw.
“Birmingham and Bristol City we could have won. At Birmingham I thought we had the better chances bar Troy Deeney hitting the outside of the post.
“At Bristol City we had the better chances from what I remember.
“It’s about being a bit more clinical when we go away.
“In the games when we have scored goals we have tended to be hard to beat.
“When we are on top in games, and you always get spells when that happens, you have to score.
“Apart from Blackpool when we played poorly, I don’t think we have too bad away from home.
“What we need now are the results to back that up, more points on the board to go with the home form which has been good.
“The attitude when we play Bournemouth is to try and win the game. Why can’t we go there and win?
“The coaching staff and analysts will come up with a game plan to give us the best chance of doing that.”
Had PNE previously been able to turn just a couple of their away draws into wins, they would be far higher up the table.
There are just a handful of points separating a large group of clubs, with just one or two wins having the potential to make a big difference in league position.
When PNE beat Luton on Saturday at Deepdale, the Hatters dropped five places which highlights the congestion from the play-off slots downwards.
Whiteman said: “How the table is at the moment shows what the Championship is all about, everyone can beat anyone.
“Luton were fifth when they came here the other day, we were 19th.
“The way the game went and how we played, you wouldn’t have put us in the league positions we were.
“We’ve got to find some consistency, put three or four wins together – not just win one and lose the next.
“You look at Blackpool, they started the season poorly but on Saturday they went into the play-off places because they’ve put some wins together.”
After a couple of games on the bench either side of the last international break, Whiteman has been back in the starting XI of late for the Championship games.
For the Luton match, he had Ali McCann and Alan Browne for company in midfield.
That meant seats on the bench for Daniel Johnson and Ryan Ledson, highlighting the competition for places for the midfielders in PNE’s squad.
Whiteman regards that competition as healthy and hopes it can drive North End on to better things.
“There’s a lot of competition for places and the manager has alluded to the fact there is not very much between us all,” said 25-year-old Whiteman.
“It keeps us all on our toes and it’s about putting the best team on the pitch for that particular game.
“Your role canchange a bit from game to game depending on who is in there with you and the team you are playing against.
“For example, sometimes I might be the deep man, sometimes I might be a little bit higher.
“I could be the pivot with someone else or holding on my own. It has to be tailored to different games.
“You take the information from the coaching staff and put that into practice.”
Whiteman says PNE’s focus going into the Bournemouth game will be very much on the pitch rather than league tables.
The £1.6m signing from Doncaster said: “With the quality Bournemouth have in their squad, they were always going to be one of the dominant sides.
“I don’t need to look at the league table to know that.
“We will go there on the back of a win and with the confidence to try and win.”