Preston North End striker Sean Maguire looks to turn back the clock against Brentford
Should Preston North End want a confidence booster ahead of their visit to Brentford they need only wind back the clock 10 months.
They beat the Bees 2-0 at Deepdale on September 14, making a flying start with Sean Maguire on target after only four minutes.
Tom Barkhuizen added a second goal later in the game to complete a successful afternoon’s work for PNE.
Much has happened since, the major occurrence being that the season is still running in July.
Going into the Wednesday teatime meeting at Griffin Park, Brentford have turned themselves into the in-form team in the Championship.
They boast seven wins on the spin and have designs on an automatic promotion slot, let alone the play-offs.
Recovering sixth spot is North End’s target, a position they sat in for quite a while either side of lockdown.
Despite winning just one game since the end of February, the play-offs are still not out of reach.
It could mean them having to win all three of their remaining games in order to extend the season, something striker Maguire thinks can be done.
Thinking back to scoring in that early-season win over Thomas Frank’s side brings a smile to Maguire’s face.
“That game seems about two years ago,” said Republic of Ireland international Maguire. It went well for us and hopefully it can be the same when we go to their place.
“The first goal is often important in a game and I scored early when we beat Brentford.
“Since we’ve come back from lockdown we haven’t scored an early goal and it is something we need to get back doing again.
“We know how dangerous Brentford can be, they are the form team in our division and the whole country.
“However, like every club in our division they have their weaknesses and it is those we will be looking to exploit.
“I think we have to go there and take the game to them, we can’t let them come on to us. They will be wanting to keep the pressure on the two teams at the top of the table.”
This is the third midweek game in a row for teams in the Championship, with another next Wednesday to finish the regular season.
It is needs-must in order to complete the 2019/20 season in time for early August, with the 2020/21 campaign looking likely to start in mid-September.
The schedule means that a lot of time between games is taken up by recovery.
Maguire said: “It is a case of play, recover, play, recover.
“We have to deal with that and any footballer will tell you they just want to play.
“It was a bit strange how they scheduled it with us having a clear week between the first game at Luton and playing Cardiff.
“Since then we have played every Wednesday with not a lot of time to train in between. It is something we are dealing with, what we know it is that we have got three games left to get ourselves in the play-offs.
“That dream is not over, we might have to win all three but let’s see how things go over the next week.
“We will keep believing, even when the results were really sticky we still had a belief.
“We’ve been better in the last three games and hopefully we can keep that going.”
North End’s results since the restart have been patchy to say the least.
A draw at Luton Town was followed by home defeats to Cardiff and Derby.
Alex Neil’s men then drew 0-0 at Huddersfield before beating Sheffield Wednesday 3-1 last week.
They drew 1-1 against Nottingham Forest on Saturday, a game Maguire thinks North End should have won.
He said: “The last three games have been better than the previous three. We drew at Huddersfield and had a couple of chances at the end, then we did really well at Sheffield Wednesday.
“We took a lot of confidence from that game and I thought we played well on Saturday.
“We should have beaten Nottingham Forest but got a draw.
“That was a good display, however we are at the stage of the season where we’d all take a horrible performance and a 1-0 win.
“We’ve started to create better chances of late. In the first three games back against Luton, Cardiff and Derby we didn’t create enough chances.
“At Huddersfield we had more of the game and then against Sheffield Wednesday we created enough chances in the first half to be 3-0 up.
“Then Jayden Stockley and Scott Sinclair came on to save the day. Against Forest their keeper made a good save from me , while Brad Potts and Barky were denied by great blocks.”