How Preston reached the North End of the table

Phil Brown PNE

Preston North End have well and truly put their disastrous opening game of the season behind them after moving up to 3rd in League One.

Preston played host to John Ward’s Colchester United on 6th August. Fans warmly welcomed veteran Graham Alexander as he came back to the club where he spent eight years.  For a short spell, he lost his marbles and ended up at Burnley but alas has learnt the error of his ways. How fitting that his last game for Preston in his first spell was against Colchester.  It wasn’t to be the dream re-start for Phil Brown’s men though as his side became the first in the Football League to concede – Anthony Wordsworth coolly slotted the ball into the bottom right corner past Andy Lonergan’s replacement Iain Turner in the 12th minute. That shabby performance resulted in a 4-2 loss.

Charlton currently lead the way at the top of the table with 27 points from 11 games. However, if Preston win their game in hand the Lilywhites will be breathing down Chris Powell’s neck. The Sheffield United game on Saturday has been postponed due to international duties, so our leapfrogging will have to wait. In case you were wondering, Iain Turner and Keammar Daley have been summoned to the Canadian and Jamaican squads respectively. Colin McLaughlin will be on Northern Ireland duty.

Last Tuesday night’s 4-3 thriller at Wycombe increased North End’s run up to seven straight league wins, eight games unbeaten.  This game epitomised their strength and self-belief as they clawed back from 3-2 down.  It’s our best start in the league in 52 years – quite a feat. Phil Brown hailed the players whilst simultaneously blasting the defence.

Unfortunately that fantastic run was brought to a halt on Saturday. Surprisingly it was bottom-of-the-league Leyton Orient who spoiled the fun. Graham Alexander missed his second penalty of the season, after the prolific spot kicker placed a spot-kick straight at the keeper in the 1-0 home win over Exeter in August. So far this season when Preston score first they have been able to salvage some points, seven out of eight times PNE have taken all three points. Therefore when Jamie Proctor gifted Paul Coutts with an easy tap-in from close range inside two minutes, I was confident we would see the game through. The O’s scored two before half time and even then I wasn’t concerned. The comeback never came and the problem that we have been masking all season was exposed – terrible defending.

It was about time PNE were punished for making very basic errors at the back. The whites have seemingly breezed to third place because our attacking style of play that has earned us 21 goals. Neil Mellor has netted seven and Iain Hume five, including some stunning strikes. Whilst the attackers have been scoring for fun, at the other end the defence have conceded fifteen. Admittedly Sean St Ledger flitted off to join Leicester in the transfer window and at 39 years-old, one could argue that Graham Alexander is past his sell by date.  However Paul Parry and the experienced Clarke Carlisle have made some terrible defensive blunders that belong in the playground. Seven goals were conceded in the last three games where the youthful Andreas Arestidou has worn the gloves whilst Iain Turner has been recovering from a damaged big toe. There are some tough fixtures ahead and Preston simply cannot rely on scoring four goals to make amends for lacklustre defending.

I cannot summarise our positive start to the campaign without saluting Iain Turner. Our goalkeeper delighted Deepdale with a cracking goal from his box! It was the result of a huge kick that bounced inbetween Neil Mellor and the County keeper, Stuart Nelson, to secure a 2-0 victory. Intentional or not, it’s a goal I’ll always remember.

A recent survey showed that Preston and Rochdale are the cheapest clubs to watch in League One. The 2-1 win over Tranmere was the highest attended match with 17,261 in Deepdale. There should be crowds like that at every home game because overall there’s an awful lot to cheer about.

Written by Hannah Lupton, We Are Going Up’s Preston North End Blogger

Hannah tweets at @Hannah_Lupton

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