The challenges facing Preston North End in the run of matches after the international break

Preston North End will resume action next Saturday when they host Sheffield Wednesday at Deepdale.

By Dave Seddon
Sunday, 15th November 2020, 4:45 pm
Preston North End will hope to get Ben Davies and Ben Pearson back in action after the international break
Preston North End will hope to get Ben Davies and Ben Pearson back in action after the international break

After three international breaks since the eve of the season, it is domestic football all the way through until March and the schedule is a demanding one.

North End face a dozen Championship fixtures between now and January 2, with the third round of the FA Cup the week after.

Here are some of the things on Alex Neil’s to-do list in the weeks ahead.

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PNE manager Alex Neil speaking after the defeat to Rotherham

1. A solution to the home form.

To state the obvious, North End’s results at Deepdale need to improve and rapidly.

To have no points after five home Championship matches and to have scored only one goal, is bordering on the ridiculous.

It might be the case that the fixture list threw them up a run of games against teams happy to sit in, soak up pressure and break forward on the counter-attack.

But it is up to Neil and his players to cope with what is put in front of them, that run simply cannot be allowed to go on further.

Sheffield Wednesday under Tony Pulis aren’t exactly going to come out all guns blazing next Saturday.

They will be organised, solid and unlikely to throw bodies forward in great numbers.

Supporters want to see two up front at home but Neil prefers the single striker up front with support from two wingers and a No.10.

He’s not a 4-4-2 manager, not too many are nowadays, with coaches keen to have numbers in midfield to try and control the play.

A 3-4-1-2 system could be an answer, allowing two up front but retaining a trio in midfield.

2. A quieter treatment room would be of benefit in the coming weeks.

Ben Pearson and Ben Davies have occupied it since the middle of October, with Patrick Bauer and Andrew Hughes keeping them company of late.

The away results show that PNE coped without the two Bens, with three of the four wins on their travels picked-up without them.

But having the quality of Pearson and Davies back available would be a big boost ahead of the packed Saturday/midweek schedule.

Pearson’s presence was missed at Rotherham when the home side pressed and hustled North End.

The comfort Davies has on the ball could well help the home form, some quality passing from the back to help build meaningful attacks.

3. Maintain the good form of some key players. Ryan Ledson and Emil Riis have been the success stories of the season so far, so too the goals from Scott Sinclair.

Ledson’s game has really developed this season and is one of the first names on the team-sheet currently.

While it can take new signings a while to settle in at PNE, the fact Riis has shone so quickly is a big boost.

His pace in stretching defences will be vital, both home and away.

Sinclair tops the North End scoring charts with five goals - all of them away - so he needs to keep those coming and find his scoring touch at Deepdale too.

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