Three PNE midfielders have been hit by bans for red cards. Paul Gallagher, retrospectively sent-off after the Stoke game, talks to Dave Seddon about the start to the season
Preston have been no angels so far this season, with the central midfield the biggest sinners.
They have had three red cards, Paul Gallagher shown his retrospectively to set the ball rolling.
Ryan Ledson was given his marching orders in the first half at Leeds in the League Cup, leaving North End to play for an hour with 10 men.
Then in the last match before the international break, Ben Pearson saw red after the final whistle as the clash with Bolton ended in unsavoury scenes.
In front of Pearson is a three-game ban, Ledson having two more matches of a suspension to serve.
Gallagher’s ban is out of the way, with him returning to face Bolton – playing the first half before being taken off at the interval.
His elbow on Stoke City’s Joe Allen was missed at the time by the referee but was picked-up by the cameras in the televised game.
Bans for three players in the same area of the squad poses problems in terms of consistent selection.
While many of Alex Neil’s changes from game-to-game have been voluntary, the bans in midfield have forced his hand – and will continue to do so when the action starts again next Saturday.
So keeping things clean must surely be on the agenda in the coming games so to give PNE boss Neil the chance to get a full strength team out on the pitch.
“We’ve had people going out of the team because of suspension and that does not make things easy for the manager,”Gallagher told the Post.
“I got a ban because of what happened in the Stoke game.
“That was an accident but I knew it looked bad when people were watching it.
“Had it been a bigger lad, I would have caught him on his arm, not his face as what actually happened.
“That sort of thing is not my game, I told the gaffer that when we came in at half-time, explained that I hadn’t meant to catch him in the face.
“We had Ryan Ledson sent off in the cup game at Leeds.
“Afterwards I had a word with him, just to give him a bit of advice.
“I said that sometimes you have to recognise who you are going in for a tackle against.
“Had it had been a hard-tackling player who Ryan had gone in with, the lad would have tackled too.
“As it was, it was a bit one-sided on Ryan’s part and didn’t look too good.
“If you are up against a more technical player, just stand up against them, there is no need to make a tackle.
“Ryan is a young lad, he will learn from it.
“With Ben’s red card, he has to learn to walk away, again it is a learning curve.
“We all know that he is a fiery player and people will try to wind him up.
“We’ve all done it at some stage, said something on the pitch to see if you can get a reaction.
“It’s learning not to react to it, turn away and get on with the game.
“That is sometimes not easy to do but Ben is one of our best players and we need him available.”
Gallagher and his PNE team-mates will be looking to spark an upturn in results next weekend when they face Reading at Deepdale.
Just one league win in the opening six games was not what was envisaged.
The League Cup has been kinder to them, with wins over Morecambe and Leeds United.
But getting themselves going in the league is the big priority, with the Reading game followed quickly by trips to Leeds and Sheffield United.
Gallagher reasons that performances have been quite good but not enough to get a better points haul.
“The performances have deserved better I think,” said Gallagher who turned 34 on Saturday.
“It’s not as if we’ve been bad for long periods in any of the games.
“At Swansea we weren’t good in the first half but in the second half Swansea couldn’t get out of their own half because we had them pinned back.
“In the Norwich game, Callum Robinson hit the bar when it was 0-0, had that gone in I’m confident we would have gone on to win.
“What we need to do now is find some consistency and try to string some good results together.
“The international break will hopefully do us some good, this a time to regroup and get ourselves prepared for the games ahead.
“Last season we had that sticky patch when there were all those injuries in the defence.
“After that there was an international break which we used well.
“We came back, drew 0-0 against Bolton and went on to put a good run together.
“The bar is set high after we did so well last season but we have to go out and get the results again.
“Things can quickly change, if you win three games on the game that can catapult you up the table.
“I think Bristol City have won three on the bounce and now they are in the top six, it’s that kind of run which we have to aim for.
“There are some tasty games coming up, if we can get back-to-back wins it will give us a lot of confidence.
“We are learning as a team, there are some new lads here and generally we are a young squad.
“This is spell which we can learn from.”