'It is huge' - Ryan Lowe outlines exciting Preston North End plan for returning star
Preston North End manager Ryan Lowe wants to see Emil Riis go from strength-to-strength after his goal at Cardiff City.
The Lilywhites welcomed Riis back to action in late December, after almost a full year on the sidelines with a serious knee injury. PNE's top scorer of 2021/22 suffered the first major setback of his career, but got back to doing what he does best - last weekend.
Riis fired Preston ahead in South Wales with a magnificent solo strike, before Ben Whiteman added a second. Lowe, a former centre-forward himself, knows the deadly attributes Riis brings to the table. He now believes the Dane can evolve into the complete striker for Preston.
"I just saw it hit the back of the net after he'd come inside, on to his right foot," said Lowe. "He has got that quality, hasn't he? Like all the strikers do, he works on it every day and if you shoot on target you've got half a chance of scoring. It was a great finish. It is huge to have him back, but at some point he's going to have a break. Because, when you come back from 12 months out and the form he is in - I thought he looked physically strong, up against good, solid defenders.
"His hold up play is getting better and his runs in behind are better. He's always got that. We are just trying to mould him into the perfect striker, really. The strikers are all quality in different ways. But we do need to be careful with Emil as well - because we can't just slog him all the way through. We will manage his days and his loads but yeah, I am just pleased for him to get on the score sheet after having that long period of time out. As a striker, it's pleasing."
The return of Riis has seen North End's boss change shape and spark improvement. With Mads Frokjaer in the attacking midfield role and Will Keane partnering Riis up top, Preston have had recent joy. PNE will head into the midweek round of fixtures in 10th spot, two points behind sixth placed Coventry City. Given the testing times this season, though, Lowe is just looking at the next game - Middlesbrough at home, on Wednesday night.
"We are always optimistic that we can win games of football," said Lowe. "You can go on the road and beat anyone. I think the shape is obviously helping us a little bit, in terms of the way we've been playing - the 3-4-1-2 with Mads in the ten and dropping in as a midfielder. We have worked hard with the midfielders, out-of-possession. We keep showing them clips of the good stuff they've been doing.
"There are moments when teams get in, of course, but the resilience and strength behind that - with the defending the lads do and how well they do it - is pleasing. They are doing a job-and-a-half for each other, now. They are not just doing their own job; they are helping their mate out. I think the formation has obviously helped us in that, with two holding midfielders and a ten breaking out. Then, when we are not, we can drop down into a flat three.
"The work that goes on behind the scenes is endless and the lads are taking it to fruition. And yeah, we have just got to keep low, keep training and doing our thing on a daily basis - working hard. I have to give the staff a lot of credit as well, because they've been fantastic for us all. When you come through a run of games without good results or performances, for them to then keep working hard with the players - fair play, they've been excellent."