Here we are again – this is the third ramble in a month discussing Preston North End, and you’ll forgive me if it all gets a bit samey. Preston are tough, we’ve been a bit limp against them, and Graham Westley annoys most people for acting so relentlessly like an angry PE teacher.

What’s that? I should be quiet as there’s a chance that he might sue….. Oh hang on – he already has.

Brilliant.

How are they getting on?

The descriptions of Preston’s form over the last month have become gradually more negative, and this has shown no sign of fading. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not doing this on purpose. If they were to win, I’d happily acknowledge this (although happy’s a strong word). But they’re going through a rough patch at the moment, and while we’ve had a couple of ding-dong battles recently, they were still only able to come out with a draw in one of those. Things just aren’t going their way.

Playing us aside, they’ve grabbed a win against Hartlepool (is there anyone who hasn’t beaten them?), and that’s pretty much it over recent times.

But we know by now that us and Preston don’t mix. Both this season, and historically. They know how to beat us, and at Deepdale, beating us is what they do as a matter of course.

Plus they’re all stronger than us, and that.

Who could cause us trouble?

The biggest difficulty is knowing quite who Westley is going play. When you’re in a rut like they are, and your last result was a 3-1 defeat to Wallsall, things surely have to change.

We’ve played them enough recently to have a good idea of the sort of guys who can be effective against us. John Welsh in the middle has looked strong and compact, and first time around in particular, he was very impressive.

Stuart Beavon seems to be one of their biggest threats, and it was his rather tame effort that flicked off Richard Wood and into our net in the JPT. Yes it was a lucky goal, but his play around that right hand side had been fairly good for them, so he’ someone who again we should be careful of.

Joe Garner was a bit of a nuisance up front as well, but one player who I’ve not been impressive with is that Jeffrey Monakana. He looks quick and pretty lively, but other than that physical potential to be a threat, he looked pretty wayward – particularly when he came on in the JPT tie.

You watch him score against us now.

Sky Blues team news

Bailey’s well and truly back having scored the stunning winner against Oldham. Robins’ more pressing decision lies in the formation he takes up, which in turn influences the kind of midfielders he needs.

Stephen Elliott scored from the bench the other day and put in another great performance, this time as a second striker alongside Clarke. I can’t see Robins replacing his new signing with Elliott, so the option seems to be to move to 4-4-2 if he really wants to bring in “Sleeves”.

That has an influence on the midfield, and would leave a straight fight between Jennings, Fleck, Moussa and Thomas for the final central position, seeing as Bailey is looking nailed on to play. Jennings has been great in his previous two games, while Moussa had a good impact against Oldham as well. Fleck’s performance dropped a bit, and I can’t really see him as a first choice in a midfield two. Thomas has only really from the bench, so it’d be a shock if he jumped the queue.

Having said all that – that’s what Robins’ has to think about if we go 4-4-2, but I don’t think he will change. From where I am, I think we’re looking at Clarke up front by himself again, and a Bailey, Jennings and Moussa midfield.

We’ve seen enough of Preston to know how much of a battle it can be – Robins will be taking quite a risk if he moves from the 4-5-1 for this away game. It’ll be interesting..

Prediction

Our record at Deepdale in the league is not good. We’ve never won there. However, this feels like a season where we’re putting a hell of a lot of stuff to bed, and given the way we beat them in the JPT and their current form, the scenario is certainly set.

But that ignores one thing – our two games against them have been tough, and we were only seconds away from another 1-1.

And for that reason, I can see another 1-1 again.

But a win in this game feels like it could be huge. We can’t do anything about the amount of games we’ve played compared to the others. But we can keep on winning, and we have to maintain the pressure on those around us.

People seem to be scared about the requirements for getting into the play-offs. “Oh we have to win 11 more games at least”.

I understand the trepidation – 11 out of 17 is a lot – but you’re never going to luck your way into the play-offs. Everyone else does it through being one of 6 best teams in the division of 24. Do you think we’re one of the 6 best teams?

Yes?

Let’s go out a prove it, then.

Photo of Deepdale courtesy of English Wikipedia user Hudson6dogs

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