As stated in part 1, I asked some of the lads who write for the site for their thoughts on the season restart, specifically on the following: players we could potentially see more of, anyone that they think might be given more game time than perhaps if the season had ended under normal circumstances, home advantage or lack of, results and of course, whether or not they think we will make the top 6.
For part 2, we’ve got Josh Knowles, or as he’s affectionately known to us, ‘Young Josh’. You can find him on Twitter here – @JoshKnowles2002.
With the season getting back underway this week, it’ll certainly be interesting to see how things unfold as we finally enter the business end of the campaign. I think there will be a number of players who could play a pivotal role for us.
I’d firstly go with the obvious with the likes of Ben Pearson, Daniel Johnson and Tom Barkhuizen and many others to be vital as we look to the final few games, but there may well be some other players who play a big role.
A player I would say we are likely to see even more of is Josh Harrop. He has shown the North End faithful that he has the ability to be a real player and potentially a player of huge importance to this North End side which thrives on creativity, something Josh possesses a lot of.
For me, his consistency has been his main downfall, and occasionally not taking advantage of the opportunity to perform when included in the starting XI.
But with the break we’ve had, I can see Harrop potentially being a big player for the run-in, whether it be starting on the left of midfield, in the ‘number 10’ role, or even off the bench. The manager has already stated how important substitutions will be given the new ruling of allowing up to 5 subs per game so Harrop could turn out to be a ‘super-sub’ of sorts and take advantage of tired legs and possibly help us win some points late on.
Also, I could see the likes of Billy Bodin being a player to get more game time than if the season had ended under normal circumstances. He picked up an injury a few weeks before the season ended and was expected to be out for the remainder of the season. But it appears Bodin has now recovered from his injury and could play a part in supplying depth out wide should we need it.
Another player believed to be returning from injury is midfielder Tom Bayliss. The former Coventry man hasn’t really had a chance in the first team as of yet, despite a few appearances in the cup competitions.
But with time under his belt in training and time to get somewhat fit again after this enforced break, I’d suspect he won’t be too far away from being good enough to feature on a regular basis for us.
Granted he has some incredibly talented competition in the middle of the park with the likes of Alan Browne, Paul Gallagher, Daniel Johnson, Ben Pearson all ahead of him in the pecking order. But with the substitutions becoming potentially game-defining, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s another player who was originally out for the rest of the season but ends up featuring in the final few games of the campaign.
I believe the remaining fixtures are going to be very demanding, and a lot harsher than perhaps some people anticipate with so many games to be played in such a short space of time.
Players can sometimes struggle to maintain fitness around the Christmas period and this final run of games is going to be a huge test of fitness and match sharpness which is more than likely going to mean more regular rotation of the squad.
Bodin is a player who could come in and do a job, likewise many of the back-up players such as Ryan Ledson, Jordan Storey, Joe Rafferty and Brad Potts. I believe they will all play some kind of role to help protect players from picking up niggles and hopefully we have strength in depth in the squad as all of the lads will be put to the test.
As for the feel of home advantage, I feel it will be non-existent. If anything, in my opinion, there will be a slight bit of added pressure playing at home, and despite our decent home record this season, the experienced players are going to have to really help the younger members of the squad.
The likes of Patrick Bauer, Paul Gallagher and David Nugent, both on and off the pitch can be crucial and helping the younger players and effectively driving them to potentially gaining promotion.
However, I believe playing away might give us a boost. Ultimately though, we’re just going to have to wait and see how things pan out but I just hope that the players can get into the right mindset and focus on the 3 points.
Finally, do I think we will finish in the top 6? Yes!
I believe this squad does have what it takes, we haven’t had any trouble as of yet with contracts and players refusing to play like a few other clubs in the division, and the group seems very focused and determined to get the job done. For that reason, I think we will finish in the top 6 and as for the outcome of the play-offs? That’s anyone’s guess.
However, I think if we do manage to finish in the top 6, we have as good of a chance as anyone to go up and be playing Premier League football next season.
If you haven’t already, make sure you give this week’s episode of the From the Finney podcast a listen. Jake, Oli and Jimmy were joined by Mark Lawrenson as they looked ahead to the season restart.