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Preston North End v Sheffield United - Sky Bet Championship

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Fan Focus: Preston writer George says that Troy Parrott “should have three or four goals by now”

Ahead of Sunderland’s clash with Preston, Matty spoke to Preston North End Live writer George Hodgson to discuss Ryan Lowe’s side’s lack of goals!

Photo by Rich Linley - CameraSport via Getty Images

Matthew Crichton: Ryan Lowe has received criticism for Preston’s conservative style of play, but on the other hand, your side has the best defensive record in the league - where do you stand on this?

George Hodgson: It’s been the opposite of what many expected.

Ryan Lowe was all about an attacking, entertaining brand of football when he came to Deepdale and he does want his team to play that way, but North End just haven’t been good enough in front of goal this season.

It’s such a tight league, PNE have points on the board and there’s time to turn it around, but the start to the season has been flat for sure.

MC: Although some may see it as a defensive masterclass, other supporters may consider Preston’s style as boring. Have you enjoyed watching Lowe’s side so far this season?

GH: You cannot enjoy seeing three goals in 10 games, but you can be proud of a team for defending the way PNE have done so far - especially when two of the back three and the goalkeeper were not in the side last season.

North End are giving them a consistent platform to win games but they need to start producing in the final third. They do create chances in games and play some good stuff at times, but there have also been some real drab draws.

Preston North End v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship
Ryan Lowe won promotion with both Bury and Plymouth, before moving to manage Preston.
Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images

MC: Preston currently sit 15th in the table - in terms of aspirations for the season, what do fans see as a realistic finish to aim for?

GH: The top 10 should be achievable for North End irrespective of their inferior budget.

There isn’t much between a lot of the teams in the Championship this year at all. North End fans are desperate to see their side in the Premier League and the Play-Offs will have been the aim for most heading into this season, but the end of the transfer window and start to the campaign has dampened those hopes somewhat.

MC: Your club signed the likes of Freddie Woodman, Robbie Brady and Ben Woodburn - would you say that Preston had a successful summer of recruitment?

GH: The business PNE did manage to do was positive.

All of the signings add something to the squad and pretty much all of them are playing regularly, with the exception of experienced back-up goalkeeper Dai Cornell.

Alvaro Fernandez and Ben Woodburn both look bright, while Brady brings a lot of experience and quality. Woodman is the part in net and knows this league; Troy Parrott has shown what he’s all about - but will ultimately want to get scoring goals.

But North End needed to sign a right wing-back and didn’t, while another striker was wanted by Lowe. I would probably rate the summer 6/10.

Preston North End v Burnley - Sky Bet Championship
Freddie Woodman earned six England under-21 caps and also made four Premier League appearances for Newcastle.
Photo by Mick Walker - CameraSport via Getty Images

MC: One player Preston beat Sunderland to the signing of was Spurs striker Troy Parrott, who is yet to score a league goal in 10 matches. Is that more a reflection of the play style or has he struggled?

GH: Parrott has had big chances and will feel he should have three or four goals by now.

He’s got to keep his head up and keep believing in his ability, because you can see what a clever footballer he is. Lowe has said this week he wants him to be a little bit more selfish; Parrott puts in big shifts every game and often drops deep to link up play.

He holds his own up there and is an intelligent footballer, but as previously mentioned he’s been brought in to score goals.

MC: Aside from the above-mentioned players, which Preston players should Tony Mowbray’s side be wary of?

GH: Emil Riis is yet to get going after scoring 16 league goals last season, but he’s powerful and dangerous if you leave space in behind. He’s got a rocket of a shot and PNE need him to get back amongst the goals.

Fernandez is quick and direct out on the left flank but it remains to be seen whether he will start, while Ben Whiteman is a key player in the middle of the park.

Liam Lindsay has been exceptional in the heart of defence this season, but you wouldn’t really say he’s someone to ‘be wary’ of as such.

Preston North End v Aston Villa - Sky Bet Championship
Bailey Wright made 205 appearances for Preston, scoring eight goals.
Photo by Terry Donnally - CameraSport/CameraSport via Getty Images

MC: Bailey Wright spent 7 years with Preston, winning promotion from League One in 2015. Are you unsurprised that he has enjoyed an excellent spell with Sunderland across the past three seasons?

GH: Not at all. I was gutted when Wright left North End for Bristol City and always felt he’d be a great servant for Sunderland in League One.

He could always do all aspects of defending pretty well. Thankfully, the breakthrough of Ben Davies at the time softened the blow of losing Wright to a league rival.

MC: We have mentioned Preston’s play style above, how do you think Lowe will approach the match tactically and which eleven players do you think he will select?

GH: I think he’ll expect Sunderland to bring the game to PNE, being at home in front of a massive home crowd. That may suit North End, who have always been a dangerous side on transition over the years.

Lowe may well call on some of the experienced players within his ranks to handle the atmosphere at the Stadium of Light, but he’s also got some dangerous, young players who could influence this game. It’ll be 3-5-2 or 3-4-2-1 with two attacking number tens.

Predicted XI: Woodman; Storey, Lindsay, Hughes; Potts, Browne, Whiteman, Woodburn, Brady; Riis, Parrott

MC: Sunderland have failed to beat Preston in 6 matches, spanning back to 2004, what is your prediction for the final score?

GH: Tough game. I’ll go 2-2.


Pause for thought


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