Dave Seddon's PNE Press View: Sean Maguire knocking Jordan Hugill off top spot sums up season in front of goal
Jordan Hugill left Preston for West Ham nine weeks ago and, in this neck of the woods, was quickly becoming a football version of Bryan Adams.
Bryan who? You know, the Canadian crooner who spent 16 weeks at No.1 in 1991 with the song ‘Everything I Do’ from the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
When Adams was finally knocked off top spot, the country rejoiced.
So why am I comparing the questionable musical sense of the British public in the early 90s with Hugill?
It is not out of any sense of disrespect to the striker, a thoroughly decent bloke and good servant of PNE.
But until the 51st minute of the Lilywhites’ 3-1 victory over Leeds on Tuesday night, Hugill was doing an ‘Adams’ at the top of the North End charts – the scoring charts.
The strapping frontman had remained as Preston’s leading scorer with 10 goals, even sat on his backside on West Ham’s bench.
It somewhat highlighted the relative struggle which PNE have had putting the ball in the net this season.
Sean Maguire caught up with him, heading home his 10th goal of the campaign to put Preston 2-1 up against Leeds.
Bear in mind, Maguire had been out for four months after surgery to reunite his left hamstring muscle with the tendons at either end.
For completeness, it must be pointed out that Maguire’s 10 goals have all come in the Championship.
Hugill managed eight in the league, the other two coming at Accrington in the League Cup in August.
Maguire can hopefully go on and overtake Hugill, and make the leading scorer accolade his own rather than share it. There is still time for Tom Barkhuizen to do likewise too, as he is on eight goals for the season – all in the league.
It would make North End look that bit more potent and importantly a few more goals could well fire them out of that damned 11th place.
The three goals which went past Leeds goalkeeper Bailey Farrell-Peacock, took PNE’s tally to 52.
That is the lowest number of goals scored in the play-off and promotion-chasing pack.
Millwall have managed 54 in their rapid ascent up the Championship, Sheffield United 57, while Bristol City and Middlesbrough have both struck 59 goal.
For a bit of balance, PNE have shipped fewer goals than the three teams directly above them.
The lack of goals when compared to some of their peers, is not a new topic to be discussed this season.
Alex Neil has looked at a few different things to get the goals flowing.
Hugill was his No.9 of choice until West Ham came calling with a wheelbarrow full of cash.
For the first part of the season, Maguire supported him from out wide – then his injury intervened.
By the time Maguire was back fit, Hugill was blowing bubbles in East London.
The way the Irishman has found his scoring touch is of much credit to him.
His six goals have come in five starts and three games as a substitute – the minutes to goals ratio is impressive for a player coming back from what was serious surgery.
Initially Maguire was eased in from the bench, with Callum Robinson in the centre-forward role.
We have also seen Louis Moult up there, although the January arrival seems to still be finding his feet.
In the summer, I would be surprised if Alex Neil didn’t go shopping for another frontman. What the PNE manager will also be seeking is for his team to be a touch more streetwise in their approach in the opposition box.
Whether that is done in the transfer market or on the training pitch – or indeed both – we will see.
But that is an aspect of their play which if polished up, would make a difference.
Many times we have seen North End work the ball into some really promising areas, only for decision-making to let them down as the edge of the box looms into sight.
It is not necessarily a case of missing sitters which at times has proved costly, more the quality of pass or cross, or when to make it.
Neil discussed that in the post-match press conference at Reading last week, citing a lack of experience from his younger players.
It is an area of their game he is confident of improving over time. If he does so, hopefully we are talking about the top scorer being well beyond the 10-goal mark at this stage.
That is taking a longer-term view.
In the short term, North End still have a job to do this season.
Whether or not they have left themselves too much to do in the play-off race, it is vital PNE try to finish the season on a high note.
Beating Leeds moved them on to 63 points for the season, bettering the 62 points gathered in the last two campaigns.
They discovered that bit more creativity around the box, scoring three goals in a league game for only the fifth time this term.
Hopefully that will have given them an extra spring in their step for the last four games, starting with Queens Park Rangers.
Even if the top six ends up being a step too far, how PNE finish is important.