Dave Seddon's Preston North End Press View: Time to find some middle ground
Last season Preston's defence was hit all at once by injuries, just at the moment it is the turn of the midfield to find itself understaffed.
It is mainly self-inflicted this time, with suspensions taking Ben Pearson and Ryan Ledson out of the equation.
There is quite a strong possibility that Alan Browne will be on the absence list too, that down to a calf strain rather than misdemeanour.
Three midfielders who can put in a tackle could have no more than a watching brief against Reading and into next week.
Alex Neil touched on the subject at Thursday’s press conference, acknowledging that the side could be lacking ‘a No.6’ as he described it.
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In effect, if Browne joins Pearson and Ledson on the list of absentees, there is no one naturally to put their foot in.
No one wants a foot – or feet – being put in like Ledson did at Leeds to earn his red card.
But a bit of steel inside the engine room never goes amiss – North End head back to Elland Road on Tuesday, the type of game where it could well be needed.
It is now up to others to prove themselves in a role which might be somewhat different to their usual game.
Paul Gallagher, Daniel Johnson and Josh Harrop are the trio in the frame.
Known more for going forward from midfield rather than in reverse, one of them could find themselves in the Pearson/Ledson role.
Gallagher showed he could look after himself, a bit too much as it was, in the Stoke game – a retrospective red card the result.
It could be a key spell for Harrop and DJ too.
Last season was a lesson for Harrop in terms of the Championship. Steadily he adapted and by the end of the campaign was fitting in more with the way Neil wanted to play.
We know him as a No.10 or in an attacking role in midfield but he did play further back in his junior days at Manchester United.
DJ has come back into the frame these last few weeks, now that his new contract has been sorted.
Remember how he and Harrop dug in following the red card for Ledson at Leeds?
We could with something similar from them, although hopefully not with the team down to 10 men this time.
It is a test of selection which Neil could have done without at this stage.
Missing two, and possibly three players, in one area is not good news anytime.
But coming on the back of what – to use the manager’s own words – has been a very frustrating start, is not ideal.
This is when you want all hands to the pump in a bid to get things moving in the right direction.
As things stand, the game of catch-up being played is a relatively minor one – after all 40 more games remain.
However, the gap can soon widen and playing catch-up becomes a weekly task.
Sometimes a couple of prominent absences can drive a team on, bring about that extra determination to make things happen.
This is a big week for PNE, even this early in the season.
Reading, Leeds and then Sheffield United, the latter two away. I’d say four points from those would be a decent enough return, but the more the merrier.
The fact there is quite a bit of frustration knocking around at Preston’s start to the season, is a sign of how the expectation level has risen.
I see that as a positive thing, it not being unrealistic for fans to want to see PNE pushing on. The first two seasons in the Championship were something of a settling-in period.
Neil pushed things on last term and expectations have moved accordingly.
I like that, it is a sign of progress, supporters have some genuine belief that the club should be competing in the upper reaches.
Of course when things don’t go to plan – one win in six league games – there will be frustration.
While the Championship and Premier League had last weekend off as international football took centre stage, it was, in the main, business as usual in League One and League Two.
It might not have caught the headlines but clubs were permitted to stream matches on the EFL’s iFollow service on Saturday afternoon.
Usually there is a block on the streaming of live games on a Saturday between 2.45pm and 5.15pm but the rule does not apply during an international break.
Is this mission creep, are we inching towards a time when every match will be on a screen somewhere?
There is a fear that such coverage will lead to lower crowds – while some fans will travel the length of the country to watch their team, others might be tempted to stay at home and stream it.
In the Championship this season, there will be certain midweek schedules where all games are available on the red button – North End’s visit to Norwich last month was one of those occasions.
Far more handy to watch it on screen than hike down to East Anglia some would say, and you could see their point.
But is it pushing football towards being a television show, with more supporters tempted to give going to the ground a miss?