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Preston North End v Cardiff City - Sky Bet Championship

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Fan Focus: Preston fan Oliver gives us the lowdown on Sunderland’s opponents today!

We caught up with Preston fan Oliver Dawes of Deepdale Digest for a chat ahead of Sunderland’s trip to the north west today. What can we expect from a team with nothing but pride left to play for?

Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images

With defeat to Sheffield United ending your playoff hopes, are fans disappointed or content with your mid-table finish?

Oliver Dawes: It’s one of those where the hope kills you a little; we got ourselves into such a good position over Easter but have only taken one point from the last four games.

Falling short felt a little predictable but no less disappointing. Mid-table is probably where we deserve to be over the course of the season so we can’t complain too much with all things considered.

After a fantastic run of one loss in 11 games, Preston have failed to win their last four games - what are the main factors behind your dip in form?

OD: We actually played fairly well at Millwall but they took their chances and we didn’t.

The first half at Swansea was just a complete disaster, too easy to play against and left with a mountain to climb at 3-0 down, before we lost our heads a bit in a mass brawl.

We again lacked that finishing touch against Blackburn Rovers and looked defeated before we even started against Sheffield United. Again, too easy to play against through the middle of the pitch.

Ultimately, we just haven’t quite had the quality to beat the teams around the top eight and a number of injuries haven’t helped.

Preston North End v Blackpool - Sky Bet Championship
Ryan Lowe has been in charge at Preston since December 2021.
Photo by Rich Linley - CameraSport via Getty Images

When we last met, Preston were regularly drawing 0-0 and rarely scoring, how did Lowe change your style of play?

OD: The reintroduction of Daniel Johnson has certainly helped of late.

Possibly our most technically-gifted player, Johnson has brought some much-needed guile in recent weeks but this may be his last game for the club as he is out of contract this summer.

Josh Onomah’s introduction has helped too, and the wing-backs seem to have played with a bit more freedom.

Sunderland were linked with on-loan Preston striker Troy Parrott last summer - how has he performed this season?

OD: This has probably been a frustrating season for Parrott because the goals just haven’t flowed.

The Irishman has shown decent link-up play and he can get on the ball and turn to run at the defence.

We have enjoyed his partnership with Tom Cannon, with Parrott dropping deep and Cannon running in behind, but he just isn’t a natural finisher at this level and it’s hard to see him breaking into the Tottenham side without adding that ruthless streak to his game.

Millwall v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship
Troy Parrott has scored four goals in 33 matches this season since joining on loan from Spurs.
Photo by Rob Newell - CameraSport via Getty Images

Speaking of loans, Alvaro Fernandez, Thomas Cannon and Liam Delap also joined from Premier League clubs - have they impressed?

OD: Fernandez has been superb as a left wing back, providing a real attacking threat whilst being able to drive infield and cause problems. We would love him back for another year but it’s hard to see that happening.

Cannon has been a revelation, truly an example of a striker just needing one to go in before going on a run. More likely to return than Fernandez next season but will be wanted by half of the Championship now.

Delap came in with a bigger reputation than Cannon but it hasn’t quite worked for him. An encouraging couple of displays of late though with a goal and an assist in his last two outings, so maybe another season here could be on the cards yet.

Aside from the above-mentioned players, who has impressed you the most this season?

OD: I can only apologise for praising a former Newcastle player but Freddie Woodman has been superb in goal and will be a prime contender for our Player of the Year award.

Ben Whiteman has held the midfield together and his absence against Sheffield United was severely felt.

Ched Evans was making a big impact with his attitude, hold-up play and goals before a season-ending health problem.

Preston North End v Blackburn Rovers - Sky Bet Championship
Former England U21 goalkeeper Freddie Woodman has been linked with Rangers, Leeds & Leicester.
Photo by Rich Linley - CameraSport via Getty Images

How do you think Lowe will approach the match tactically?

OD: Lowe almost always plays with a 3-5-2 or 3-4-2-1 and we can’t imagine him changing that now.

We may see a couple of young players involved in this one but I’d expect to see wide centre-backs, one midfielder sitting a little deeper and wing-backs pushed fairly high up the pitch.

Are any players missing through injury and who do you think Lowe will select?

OD: We’re without quite a few players for this one - Alan Browne, Emil Riis, Ched Evans and Greg Cunningham are all out whilst Ben Whiteman missed last week’s game and may not be risked.

That’s hardly an ideal situation for us and that may be why some young players are given chances on the final day.

Sunderland’s last victory against Preston came in 2004 - what is your prediction for the final score?

OD: Sunderland have more to play for here and I’ll back them to claim a 2-1 win as North End’s season ends a little flatter than hoped.


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