Woosh, what a week! It all started with a trip away to Horwich down the M61 and a 1-2 win over Bolton Wanderers, our third away win on the bounce for the first time since 2005.

This was then followed by the visit of league leaders Norwich City on a night that proved to be the night Leeds United would head back to the top of the pile after Alex Neil managed to get his first win over his former employers since being sacked in March 2017. His Preston side romped home with a 3-1 victory and goals from Ben Davies inside the first 100 seconds, a penalty from Paul Gallagher and a top drawer finish from Sean Maguire to get his first goal of the season after being out with a hamstring injury since August.

That brings us to this Saturday where we welcome Nottingham Forest and their new management team of Martin O’Neill and his assistant manager Roy Keane to Deepdale. This spell at Forest is his return to club management since he was relieved of his duty as Ireland manager and it’s certainly going to be interesting to see how it pans out. O’Neill has never done too badly in management with just over a 50% win ratio from over 950 games in charge of various teams but, it’ll be interesting to see over the coming months how he fares at Forest with their somewhat questionable ownership seeming to demand a lot from their managers.

Recent Form

Alex Neil seems to have found a good formula of late as we’re now unbeaten in the last 6 games winning 4 and drawing 2 but 3 of those 4 wins have come away from home with the only home win since December 15th being Wednesday night’s 3-1 victory over Norwich City which, according to Daniel Farke, we shouldn’t have won because Norwich “won all the statistics – shots, possession – but unfortunately didn’t win the result”. Now, I’m not sure if Deluded Farke is aware but, there’s more to a game of football than winning “shots and possession” and the most important thing is goals which funnily enough, we won. Go figure. 🤷‍♂️

In terms of head-to-head between North End and Forest, since North End have been back at this level, they have just edged the results with 3 wins from 7 games. Forest have managed just 1 win and there’s been 3 back-to-back 1-1 draws which ended last January when North End won 0-3 away at The City Ground and that was followed up with a 0-1 win away earlier this season, too.

Forest away

Considering we hadn’t won a home game since December 15th, our home record isn’t too bad having only lost 3 games in the league at Deepdale this season. We have won 6 and drawn 7, this being the issue at home; not being able to turn them into wins, the game against Frank Lampard’s Derby County recently being a prime example. We dominated the game but just weren’t clinical enough.

Forest’s away form from 16 away games this season reads like this: won 3 times, lost 4 times and drawn 9 averaging 1.44 goals per game. Forest have also conceded at least 1 goal in each of their last 10 matches and 34% of the goals they have conceded were conceded after the 75th minute.

At home, we’re fairly fast starters with 18% of the goals we’ve scored coming inside the first 15 minutes. In fact, we’re pretty strong in the first half overall scoring 53% of our goals in the first half and only conceding 7 so far this season. Forest on the other hand, seem to be rather slow starters, only scoring 33% of the goals they’ve scored away from home in the first half this season. But, 75% (6) of those goals have been inside the first 15 minutes so it could be a lively opening to the game.

Opposition View

It’s that part where I hand off and this time around, we’ve got Charlie from @forestfanzone on twitter.

It was an extremely busy summer Trentside, with Karanka bringing in a total of 17 new
signings, including record signing, Joao Carvalho, for £13m from Benfica. Forest fans were understandably optimistic this season. We got off to a very slow start but we weren’t losing games, so when we started to turn those draws into wins in October/November time, it was looking very rosy. But it’s never easy at Forest.

A very poor Christmas period followed, including that utterly ridiculous 3-3 draw at Carrow Road on Boxing Day, when we were 3-0 up with 15 minutes to go. That was the moment Aitor Karanka’s future became very precarious, and evidently, the owners were not happy enough with the league position, with a minimum target of 6 th set by the 1 st of January. We were 7th.

A very typical Forest scenario followed where we sack a manager in January, this time in the vast majority of fans eyes, wrongly. The fans could see genuine progression under Aitor Karanka. Yes, we maybe should have picked up a few more wins but performances were solid and we thought that was something we could build on come January with a few quality additions. However, the owner’s mind was already made and that was the end of that.

Karanka officially walked but realistically he was pushed out. If common sense and patience prevailed, Aitor would still be here today.

But anyway, here we are in a new era, again. This time in the form of club legend Martin
O’Neill, who won two European Cup’s in 1979 and 1980 during his time as a player at the
club, and he brought along his trusted right-hand man and another former player, Roy
Keane. The reaction to the news was mixed, with many still extremely angry that Karanka was forced out so that instantly didn’t help O’Neill as he was coming in at a time where the atmosphere within the fan base was toxic.

The majority of us had reservations over MO’N due to his dated style and the fact he’d been out of club management for so long. It’s also worth mentioning that the Republic of Ireland didn’t play the most entertaining football, to say the least.

But, after five games in charge including two defeats, two wins and a draw (thanks to
Dwight Gayle’s best Tom Daley impression. Yes, I am still livid about that), we are starting to see an identity emerge through the ashes of the chaos which has ensued since Boxing Day, and that’s giving us all a glimmer of hope.

A solid performance last time out against West Brom at The Hawthorns has begun to turn a lot of fans heads, with the hope that we could maybe give the top six one last push. But we need to start winning back to back games, something we haven’t done since September. So maybe it was inevitable that we’d concede late, and pick up yet another draw.

As for this weekend’s game, going to Deepdale is always up there as one of the toughest away games in the league. Preston always seems to perform well at home and have seen a turn in form of late, so this is going to be very difficult indeed. Alex Neil is a fantastic manager and with a limited budget, plaudits have to go to the scouting team as you always seem to find a few gems.

A predicted line up is difficult to call at this stage with O’Neill still testing players but I’ll give it a go: [4-3-3] Pantilimon; Janko, Milosevic, Benalouane, Robinson; Yates, Colback, Watson; Osborn, Grabban, Lolley. Unchanged.

Score prediction (I write this as I see you thump your third in against Norwich… gulp): 1-2 Forest, with Lolley and Grabban the scorers. I hope…

Predictions

I suspect that after two tough games, there will be changes tomorrow afternoon. Tom Barkhuizen, as well as he played on Wednesday night, I suspect might miss out as he seemed to be holding his hamstring just before he went off but, let’s hope not as he has looked excellent against Bolton and Norwich. I could also see Jayden Stockley come back into the team for either Barkhuizen if he is injured or Maguire due to the fact he’s still on his way back from a hamstring injury and seemed to pull up a little bit before he was taken off on Wednesday.

The back five I would imagine is nailed on to stay the same with Fisher and Hughes and right and left full back, Declan Rudd in goal and Jordan Storey and Ben Davies playing centre back. Another possible change could be in the middle with Paul Gallagher dropping to the bench but I guess that will depend on whether or not the manager thinks he can manage 3 games in a week.

Ben Davies goal v Norwich

In terms of the score, I think there’s going to be goals in this one. I predict a 3-1 win for North End. However, I’m sure a look at my Sky Bet account would tell you how I tend to fare as far as score predictions go.

What are your score predictions for the game? Do you think North End will make it 7 unbeaten with a second home win on the bounce? Let us know on twitter before the match!