We’re back at Deepdale to face Luton Town on Saturday afternoon after North End suffered back to back away defeats. The game follows on from a midweek defeat for Alex Neil, a defeat that seemed to be the tipping point for a lot of fans with what feels like more people than ever calling for him to be relieved of his duties with just 9 games of the season to go.
We lost 2-0 on Tuesday night as Neil Warnock’s Boro ran out comfortable winners after North End went down to 10 men with Alan Browne seeing red for “lashing out” at Sam Morsy. How only one red card was shown in this situation is beyond me. Alex Neil also received his marching orders at half time from referee Oliver Langford.
By all accounts, Alex Neil hasn’t said anything to warrant a sending off and is well within his right to question a referee’s decision when done in a respectable manner, which he believes he did.
The game then slowly faded out and an early second-half goal from Marcus Tavernier meant all three points were staying on Teesside after they’d managed to kill off the game and see it out, which they did with ease.
Luton, on the other hand, picked up three points at home to relegation-threatened Coventry City which leaves them just two points off the top half of the table which is where they will be looking to finish the season.
The visitors faced North End at their own place in front of 2,000 of their own fans back in December. The home advantage with fans was clear to see as North End put in one of the worst performances that I can remember since we’ve been back in the Championship. On that day Luton ran riot and put three goals past Declan Rudd. They made North End look nothing short of an unorganised shambles.
The first player I would like to pick out as a potential danger is Leicester City loanee Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall. The youngster has been a fantastic addition to Nathan Jones’ side and has made an impression on not only Luton Town fans, but also fans of his parent club.
During his loan spell, he’s been linked with a move to Tottenham Hotspur which shows just how highly regarded the 22 year old is. He regularly features as either as a holding midfielder or more of a box-to-box midfielder playing in the centre and provides a lot of balance to the Luton midfield which has a number of good quality players with the likes of Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu and Ryan Tunnicliffe.
Dewsbury hall has contributed to six goals this season as well as being awarded man of the match a number of times. It seems as though he’s become one of those loan players you never want to see leave to the Luton Town faithful.
The second player I would like to highlight is Elijah Adebayo. After signing from Walsall in the January transfer window, the striker has already got three goals in his eight Luton appearances including one against Coventry City last time out.
He already scored 10 goals for Walsall this campaign before making the move to Kenilworth Road which has all the early signs of being some smart business by the Hatters.
The 23-year-old is 6’3″ and will prove to be a test for Liam Lindsay and Jordan Storey assuming they’re the pair who start for the second successive game at the weekend.
Luton are a side who will be hoping to finish the season strongly and push for a top 12 finish at the very least, but North End are the side most in need of the points. With a very poor record since the turn of the year, and even going back into last year since the return of football behind closed doors, performances have largely been unacceptable.
You can consider all the different factors whether it’s injuries, suspensions and no fans, it’s simply not good enough and it seems as though changes are on the horizon. No one can say we’ve played well, and results are clear evidence of that, but fears are beginning to creep in that we could actually be dragged into a relegation battle despite being nowhere near it for the majority of the season.
Although there is still a fairly decent sized gap between us and the bottom 3, the Championship as we all know can change very quickly. That’s the scary thing for North End and if our form doesn’t drastically change soon, who knows where we might end this season?
But as things stand, Alex Neil is still the man in charge, and as for a starting XI I’m going to go with: Iversen, van den Berg, Storey, Lindsay, Hughes; Whiteman, Molumby; Gordon, Johnson, Barkhuizen; Evans.
I think Jayson Molumby will come into the side to replace the suspended Alan Browne who will serve a three-match ban despite an appeal to reduce the length of the ban. I’m hoping that Anthony Gordon starts as, despite the fact that his final product isn’t yet there, I believe he brings something to this North End side that no one else can manage. As Jimmy and Jake have mentioned on the From the Finney podcast, he gets you off your seat.
For a scoreline prediction, I’m looking to get two correct score predictions in a row for my preview pieces. I’m going to go with a score draw, 1-1.
I hope to see us build on a positive first 30 minutes or so at the Riverside Stadium before Oliver Langford decided to start dishing out red cards left, right and centre. Hopefully we can get a positive result back at Deepdale and get another home 3 points on the board.