It’s safe to say that the football has returned and we are now getting fully into the swing of things and as ever at this time of the season, we have the first round of the Carabao Cup. This year we travel to West Yorkshire to go up against recently relegated Bradford City who now find themselves in the 4th tier of English football.

The first round of the cup normally sees Alex Neil mix up his site and also gives the North End faithful an opportunity to see a couple of the new signings who haven’t played too much in the early part of the season. I believe this year will be no different as I think we will see the likes of Andre Green and Tom Bayliss get a good chunk of game time as well as hopefully some minutes under the belt for cult hero David Nugent, though that will depend on how bad his calf is after coming off at half time against Salford City in the bounce game last week.

Bayliss wasn’t included in the matchday squad down at Millwall due to being at the club late on Thursday night prior to the Millwall game in order to get his deal from Coventry over the line and therefore wasn’t rushed into the team. I feel he will be included against Bradford, I think it’s the perfect time to see how far away he is from pushing for a place in the starting eleven but it also gives him more valuable game time with his new teammates before getting the nod in the league.

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Bayliss is a very creative player and in his time at Coventry posted some good numbers. Frequently he would play through balls from deep, threading them through for the Coventry forwards to run onto. This creativity is sometimes what we have missed here at Preston with the Millwall game on the opening day being a prime example of that and this is why Bayliss could be a great signing for this season and years to come, starting at Bradford.

As for previous cup ties, during the last campaign, we were drawn against local side Morecambe who visited Deepdale under the lights in the first round. In this tie we saw first starts handed to Ryan Ledson, Jordan Storey, Brandon Barker and Graham Burke showing that Neil does like to change the team for the early rounds of the cup against lower league opposition. That game finished 3-1 with goals coming from Graham Burke, Louis Moult and Brandon Barker along with North end putting on a dominant display with 23 shots to Morecambe’s two attempts and Preston having 65% possession.

We then ran out 2-0 winners against Leeds United with new Rangers boys Brandon Barker scoring a quality goal after picking up the ball inside his own half and taking it past a handful of Leeds players before firing into the far corner of the net. Our run in the Carabao Cup came to an end in the next round when we were beaten on penalties by Middlesbrough after a 2-2 draw.

As for Bradford in last year’s competition, the Yorkshire side were knocked out in the first round by Macclesfield Town on penalties following a 1-1 draw after extra time. Bradford controlled the majority of that game having 19 shots, 10 more than their hosts and having 59% of the possession.

In terms of the team put out, they only made 4 changes to the team which started the previous league game. However this may be very different this season as Bradford have changed manager in that time and different managers have different priorities, meaning ex-Blackburn and Blackpool manager, Gary Bowyer, may look to make more changes this time around. He could also fancy a cup run and play the strongest team available to him. Either way, it’ll be an interesting game on Tuesday night.

Recent Form

In terms of Preston, our first game of the season was not a great spectacle from a watching brief and ultimately we ran out on the wrong side of a 1-0 defeat to Neil Harris’ side. The game was very much one in that North End would have felt they could have won and going into the game Alex Neil said it was a game he was looking forward to and one he felt we were “strong enough to win”, he told BBC Lancashire.

It was a game of very few chances with Preston struggling to manage a shot on target besides what would have been another Alan Browne wonder-strike had it not been headed clear yards away from the line. Defensively, Preston did look strong with Patrick Bauer certainly impressing on his debut, limiting Millwall to 2 real chances. However, one of those they scored from which saw North End leave the capital with nothing.

As for the Wigan game, Alex Neil was looking to put right the poor performance at Millwall and was determined to get some points on the board as opposed to playing catch up like last campaign. I think it’s fair to say that’s exactly what Preston did with a dominant display over a poor Wigan side who offered very little.

Goals coming from Louis Moult, Sean Maguire and a screamer of a free-kick from Paul Gallagher as Preston ran out 3-0 winners and Declan Rudd claiming his first clean sheet of the season. This result should see North End heading into the cup tie brimming with confidence especially with the fast-paced attacking football that was on display in the game against Wigan.

Looking at Bradford’s recent form, their first game of the season was at home against Cambridge United where the game ended 0-0 despite Bradford having an extra man advantage for the last 29 minutes after Liam O’Neil got sent off for the away side. The first half was quite a scrappy affair with the second being mostly dominated by Gary Bowyer’s men but they just couldn’t find the net despite chances from Kelvin Mellor, one coming back off the post.

As for the most recent game before the cup tie with North End, Bradford played away at Grimsby Town with the newly relegated side looking to get their first 3 points of the season. However, this wasn’t to be the case as they again only came away with a point after James Vaughan’s opener was cancelled out by James Hanson. So I’ve no doubt that Bradford will be going into the game looking to pick up their first win of the season after failing to do so in their opening two league games.

Potential Dangers

Bradford have a very experienced squad with players like Clayton Donaldson and James Vaughan both having played in the Championship in recent seasons. Vaughan, when on form, can be very difficult to deal with as we saw from his time with Bury where he recorded 24 goals in 36 appearances before earning a move to Sunderland where former North End boss Simon Grayson signed him. Since then he hasn’t really managed to pick up that goal scoring form again but being back at this level may just re-ignite his performances of old.

Another player the Lilywhites may need to keep an eye on is Eoin Doyle. Now although the ex-North Ender proved to be very disappointing in his time in a Preston shirt, he has proven in his career when playing with confidence especially in the lower leagues of English football, he can be a very prolific finisher.

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He showed as much during his time with Chesterfield, a spell that ultimately tempted North End to secure his signature in the summer of 2016 after previously being on loan.

Opposition View

This week’s opposition view comes from Bradford City fan Nigel Hall. You can follow him on twitter here – @Nige_in_Bingley.

At Bradford, its been an interesting 18 months, and that’s putting it mildly. After successive play-off position placings in 15/16 & 16/17 (including a third Wembley appearance in 4 years), City struggled to hold on to a top-six spot in 17/18 ending with the sacking of fans legend Stuart McCall as our form collapsed over 6 defeats. This was the beginning of the end really for our German chairman’s tenure as he continued to upset players, fans and staff alike.

By last summer it felt like we were on our fourth manager in as many months as rookie coach, Michael Collins was handed the job, amazingly he hadn’t even applied for it. The inevitable happened after 6 games and he was replaced with David Hopkin, which on paper didn’t look too bad a move to most. Why am I telling you all this? Because it’s important you know the background to understand where we are at present. And how bad things have been for Bradford fans.

Increasing pressure on the owner to get rid of chairman Rahic came to a head as more and more stories came out of mismanagement & apparent overspending. He finally left and former owner Julian Rhodes took the reigns. Unfortunately, form on the pitch didn’t improve as we bounced along the bottom of league one. Relegation already looked inevitable before Hopkin resigned in March last year and handed current boss Gary Bowyer a twelve game season to save us. He didn’t.

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The gulf between club, players and fans was there for all to see. A full overhaul upon relegation was demanded and a massive task in pre-season confronted the manager. Fast forward to June.

Within weeks the club had moved quickly to get shut of players they could and added ten new signings as early in the window as most fans can ever remember. Among them were marquee signings such as ex-Everton striker James Vaughan, Clayton Donaldson and Matt Palmer on loan from Rotherham. All of these added to Sean Scannell who was returning to fitness this summer following a long-term injury, he was like a new signing.

This was including some exciting youngsters and some players who were still under contract like ex-Preston man Eoin Doyle. Doyle isn’t really flavour of the month with a lot of fans, in part down to the disappointment of last season, us playing him wrong and also him underperforming.

Also during this pre-season, the club has moved to bridge the gap between club and fans with a return to traditional concept kits, some better PR and a well-timed charity friendly with Liverpool.

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The pre-season games ticked by and we looked more like Bradford City both on and off the pitch. Due to this, expectations grew fast. The turn around over a few months in mood cannot be underestimated, its been actually more enjoyable than it has for a long time.

Going into the game against Cambridge United Valley Parade, you got the feeling expectations were a tad too high. We started poorly and rode our luck in a scrappy first half. One acrobatic overhead kick from Vaughan hitting the bar. In the second-half, we dominated the game but failed to turn any of our 22 shots into anything but half-chances, even with the visitors down to ten men for half an hour.

At full time there were actually some boos, yes it’s unfortunate but I understand it to a degree after last season. So a 0-0 in the first game and on to the early kick-off at Grimsby. Police advice the reason behind a 1pm kick-off in an attempt to try and avoid a different type of kick-off because we’re massive hooligans apparently!

Under the cosh for large sections of the game today, with a less than popular 4-3-3 formation leaving Scannell on the bench. We again were better in the second half and snatched the lead with the first decent cross from wide, resulting in a James Vaughan header putting us ahead. Ex-Bantam James Hanson popped up not long after that though with the Mariners equalizer. We finished strong playing 4-4-2 but again, failed to snatch the points.

So it’s a slightly deflated fan base looking for our season to kick start vs North End in the League Cup. Historically we haven’t seemed to do well against North End unless my memory kids me. One match between the sides that sticks in my mind is the FA cup tie at a fog-bound Valley Parade live on Sky Sports in Dec 1995. City won 2-1 thanks to a Wayne Jacobs overhead kick. No one at the Kop end actually saw it because the visibility was 50 yards.

It’s going to be difficult to predict what Bradford side we’ll see on Tuesday. We’ve fringe players that need a game but I’m sure Bowyer has one eye on any money that a big cup tie could bring him for the next window. We’ve nothing to lose, we prefer an underdog tag. But many will look at Preston and say that’s really where we should be.

Danger men, if they are playing, are the obvious ones. Vaughan, Donaldson and Scannell. Also, Young Jordan Gibson is a lad in a hurry and has exceptional talent if used correctly. Bowyer plays a long ball and passing style, which tends to be switched during the game. I predict we’ll try to get to extra time and penalties. And if we do we normally win.

Realistically though, I’d expect Preston to win by a couple, dependent on sides played. If you’ve never been to Valley Parade it is unique and worth a trip. See you all on Tuesday.

Predictions

Now cup ties are normally very hard to predict as you don’t have much of an idea what kind of team is going to be played. I’m hoping to see full 90 minutes for Tom Bayliss and Andre Green with Bayliss’ creativity potentially a problem for the League 2 outfit.

I think this could also be a game which Jayden Stockley could thrive in as lower league opposition do tend to be more direct and more physical, hence the need for a target man up top.

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I think both teams will want to go for it to try and build a bit of momentum and for that reason, I think we’ll definitely see goals. I can see this being quite an exciting cup tie with North End coming out 3-2 winners. I would imagine that the options we will have available off the bench would simply put, be too strong for the Bantams in my opinion. So yeah, I’m going with 3-2 to North End in normal time.

Finally, if you haven’t already, don’t forget to give the latest episode of the From the Finney podcast a listen. It’s available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and most of the other major streaming outlets. You can also listen to it on our web player below.