North end’s next opponents at Deepdale on Saturday are 21st placed Luton Town. North End will be heading into this one looking to make it back to back wins on home soil and solidify their place back in the playoff spots.
The newly-promoted side will be looking to get their first win away from Kenilworth Road after their last one which came in September, also in Lancashire, at Blackburn Rovers.
They have lost 6 away games since then, the latest coming in mid-week against fellow relegation candidates Stoke City as the Hatters fell to a 3-0 defeat at the Bet365 Stadium.
North End have been equally as bad on the road compared to their opponents but have seemed to make Deepdale a serious fortress so far this season. We would still have an unbeaten record at home as well if it wasn’t for a very controversial late penalty in the West Brom game. However, we moved on on Tuesday night with the 2-1 win over Fulham and hopefully, we can build on that on Saturday.
If North End do get a result against Luton it would be fair to say we’ll be as good as back on track for the promotion push which has taken serious blows in recent weeks with 4 defeats on the bounce.
Something else that could possibly help to give us a push back toward securing a play-off place come the end of the season is players returning from injury. The likes of Paul Gallagher, Ben Davies and Darnell Fisher could all be back involved on Saturday and if they are, you would think that will give us a better chance of a win and back to back wins for the first time since early November.
Luton’s away form compared to home has been very contrasting, having conceding 10 goals in their last 2 away games, things don’t look promising for Graeme Jones’ side on the road. 7 of the 10 goals were conceded away at Brentford in which Luton only had 29% possession, something that may suit North End who are more than comfortable having the ball for long periods.
Luton’s last game was away at stoke where they lost 3-0. The Hatters deservedly lost in what was a big game for both sides at the foot of the table and you would imagine that Graeme Jones will be looking for a reaction from his players as they look to put some distance between themselves from the relegation zone.
Luton, in my opinion, have a better squad than their league position suggests and have a number of players who may prove to be dangerous when they come to Deepdale.
The one player I believe we need to watch out for is Irish international, James Collins. The striker was linked with a move to the Premier League in the summer, after impressing last campaign in leading Luton to promotion with an excellent return of 26 goals and ending the season on top of the goal-scoring charts in League One.
He earnt himself a call up to the Mick McCarthy’s Republic of Ireland and has since made 4 appearances. On top of this, he already has a goal to his name that came against Bulgaria as he helped seal the Republic’s 3-1 win in the friendly game.
So far this season, Collins hasn’t quite hit the heights he did last season with just 6 goals notched so far this season in the Championship. But his physical ability certainly holds a potential threat this weekend and without a doubt, he will give Patrick Bauer and whoever else partners him something to think about.
This week’s opposition view comes to you from Luton Town fan, Dave. You can find Dave on twitter here – @LTFC_Dave
Before kick-off, we sit 21st in the table, a position that would ensure survival if the season had ended in midweek and one that would most certainly be classified as a success after back to back promotions for a side with arguably the lowest budget in the league.
However, there are plenty of concerns for Hatters fans, notably some of the recent away performances. Getting spanked for 7 by Brentford and losing Izzy Brown for 2 months was worse than any potential nightmares fans may have had the night before. Tuesday night was no better for Luton either.
After a late, late show in a relegation ‘6-pointer’ against Wigan last weekend, we were the better side for 30 minutes at Stoke, before another inexcusable defensive error allowed McClean to fire the Potters ahead.
A brace for Joe Allen that came either side of the break, the latter another horrific defensive error from the returning Glen Rea a few moments after coming on, meant it was another away day with no goals, no points and the goal difference taking a battering.
Fans are divisive on what the cause of this is, but for me, I feel our approach to away games is completely wrong. As admirable as it may be going to bigger sides and trying to outplay them, more often than not it isn’t going to work. I feel we need to be a little more simplistic and make it harder for sides to break us down.
My expected XI for the game is: Shea; Bree, Pearson, Bradley (C), Potts; Tunnicliffe, Mpanzu, Berry, Shinnie; Collins, Cornick.
As for my prediction, my heart says we’ll be ruining accas up and down the country and steal a 2-1 win, my head says it’ll be a comfortable 3-0 home win.
I think, ultimately, this could end up being quite a comfortable 3 points for North End. As mentioned, hopefully, we will have a player or two back in the side and someone like Paul Gallagher would be a welcome boost in the midfield.
If Gallagher isn’t back, it may mean a first league start for summer signing Tom Bayliss. The 20-year-old has featured very little for North End, and in my opinion, this may be a good game to try and bring him up to the pace of the championship.
This is due to Alan Browne moving position. He is likely to feature at right-back after Joe Rafferty’s sending off in midweek and Darnell Fisher appearing to be injured although the length of the injury is currently unknown and again, he is one of the ones who could be back involved on Saturday.
I can see us getting back to high scoring this weekend and I predict a 3-0 win for the Lilwhites with a similar XI taking to the pitch as the one that played against Fulham with at least 1 change in the midfield, whether that be Tom Bayliss or Ryan Ledson.
There may also be a change up at the top end of the pitch as David Nugent seemed exhausted on Tuesday night and may be used as a substitute with Jayden Stockley perhaps being used against the two big centre-halves Luton have in Sonny Bradley and Matty Pearson who are 6ft 4 and 6ft 2 respectively.
I think this would be a massive 3 points for us should we end up with the win. After managing to stay in the play-off places during the week, even after Wednesday night’s results, hopefully, we can start to put a little bit of distance between us and the chasing pack.
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