September is a big month for Preston North End, starting with away double-header at Bristol City and Sheffield United
A big month is ahead for Preston North End as they look to build on a decent finish to August and get a strong foothold in the Championship.
Frankie McAvoy’s side have six games to play in September and seven in all before the next international break.
Eighteen points up for grabs and a clash with Cheltenham Town in the third round of the Carabao Cup is the schedule.
North End start with back-to-back away games, at Bristol City next Saturday and then Sheffield United a week on Tuesday.
Until last season, Ashton Gate had been a very happy hunting ground for them down the years, hopefully that status can resume.
The midweek clash with the Blades will bring PNE into opposition with their former defender Ben Davies for the first time.
Davies moved to Bramall Lane on loan from Liverpool last month after failing to play a first-team game for the Reds.
He left Deepdale for Anfield at the end of the winter transfer window in what was widely regarded as a shock move, bearing in mind Liverpool dropped into the Championship to do their shopping.
North End might have replaced him in terms of bodies in the squad but Davies is a quality player who any club at this level would struggle to find a like-for-like replacement.
It is not until Saturday, September 18 that PNE return home, with West Bromwich Albion – who sit in second place – the visitors to Deepdale.
It will be something of friends reunited that afternoon when you glance through the Baggies squad.
Jordan Hugill, Callum Robinson, Adam Reach, Jayson Molumby and Sam Johnstone would make a fine ex-Preston five-a-side team.
The Baggies aren’t thinking about hanging about in this division for very long and want a swift return to the Premier League which they left in May after one season.
Cheltenham’s visit here comes after the Albion game and while it might not be the glamour tie of the round, both sides will be seeing it as a chance to reach the fourth round and draw one of the bigger clubs.
It is the first meeting between the clubs and a tie well worth a watch.
North End head to the West Midlands after that to face Birmingham City at St Andrew’s, then host Stoke at Deepdale.
That is September’s lot, before McAvoy takes his side to London to face Queens Park Rangers on October 2.
Then there is a chance to take a breather during the October international break.
With the transfer window now shut, North End know what they have in the dressing room to face the month ahead.
Ali McCann and Josh Murphy were two astute pieces of business during last knockings of the window – the paperwork for McCann’s deal received by the EFL five seconds before the deadline.
Murphy will be looking for a regular game after being in-and-out of the Cardiff team these last two years or so.
Better known as a winger, he’s likely to have to come more central unless McAvoy changes his approach.
Murphy’s pace and Championship experience will be welcome if properly utilised.
North End found it hard to fit in the last winger recruited on loan – Anthony Gordon – but every signing is different and you hope Murphy can shine.
McCann was PNE’s cash signing of the summer window and there will be plenty of scrutiny on him both sides of the border.
There’s been surprise in Scotland that Rangers or Celtic didn’t make a move to sign him, both Glasgow clubs having been linked with him in the summer.
St Johnstone fans were sorry to see him leave for the fee he did and will no doubt closely follow his progress in Lancashire.
As for the PNE faithful, they can look forward to seeing a young midfielder who has caught the eye in Scotland and who now wants to make his way in the English game.
There’s some stern competition in midfield and like all the others, McCann will have to fight for his jersey.
It seems he would fit best into one of the those two deeper midfield roles in McAvoy’s 3-4-1-2 system.
Ben Whiteman and Ryan Ledson have been the more recent occupiers of that area of the pitch, with Daniel Johnson further up the pitch.
Perhaps we can regard McCann more of a Ben Pearson type – without the flowing hair, beard and hopefully with fewer yellow cards.
Pearson like-for-like has been hard to replace since heading south to sign for Bournemouth in January.
Both Ledson and Whiteman have played that shielding role in their own way, Alan Browne has had a go too.
Firstly, North End have to get McCann back from international duty with Northern Ireland.
So the Bristol City game might come a little quickly for him in terms of being able to slot straight in.
As September goes on though, we should get more of a picture about him.
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