Sean's Gregan's exclusive Preston North End column: It's job done!

Preston's win over Queens Park Rangers ticked all the boxes as far as the first game of the season is concerned.

Sunday, 5th August 2018, 6:00 pm
Preston winger Callum Robinson takes on QPR's Toni Leistner at Deepdale
Preston winger Callum Robinson takes on QPR's Toni Leistner at Deepdale

Three points and a clean sheet in front of the home faithful, job done.

It was probably the ideal first fixture when you look at the bigger picture of what is going on at QPR – they have not done a lot in the transfer market and will be under an embargo in January.

But it was a game which still needed winning and North End deservedly did that thanks to Alan Browne’s header.

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It came from a free-kick and it just underlines how important set-pieces are.

Look at England in the World Cup, free-kicks and corners were a big part of what they did.

If you are struggling to break down a team in open play, a well-rehearsed routine or a good delivery can make a big difference.

I always think that the first few weeks of the season is a difficult time to judge teams properly.

Pre-season training is about building the fitness and the friendlies are a way of developing sharpness.

But it is only when the league matches start and you’ve got through a couple of Saturday-Tuesdays that players really get up to full sharpness.

That is when you see sides start to hit their stride and a bit of a pattern emerges.

I’m sure that by the end of August, North End will have a sharper edge about them.

Over the next few days, there will be plenty of talk about new signings as the transfer deadline nears.

The window shuts on Thursday and then there is the loan market until the end of the month.

Sean Maguire’s hamstring injury came at a bad time for North End and their focus will be on trying to source a replacement.

Whether that will be a permanent signing or a young lad from the Premier League, we’ll have to see.

The problem is that most clubs are chasing strikers – they are the ones which tend to go for the most money.

Maguire’s absence is a big blow because since Jordan Hugill left he had become the focal point for goals.

Looking at the division, I can see the Championship being its usual self – tough, competitive, unpredictable.

Often a team can look like title-winning material and then suddenly hit a bad run of form.

When the games start to come thick and fast, it can get hard to put a consistent run together.

You’ve got to fancy Stoke for one of the automatic slots if you work on the theory that a bigger budget will often lead to success.

As well as signing Benik Afobe, James McClean and Tom Ince to name but three, so far they’ve kept hold of Jack Butland, Peter Crouch and Ryan Shawcross.

It will be interesting to see how Nottingham Forest do.

They have spent a lot of money and have a manager in Aitor Karanka who has won a promotion from this division before.

Money will always help but not exclusively.