North End are back in action this weekend after their defeat last time out against Sheffield Wednesday, as we welcome Paul Warne’s Rotherham United to Deepdale on Saturday afternoon.
The visitors will be travelling in hope of gaining another three points after beating Derby County in midweek with a convincing 3-0 win over Wayne Rooney’s side, with the game finally being played after already being called off on two different occasions this campaign.
Rotherham haven’t seen back to back wins all season but will be looking to build on their recent results after only losing once in the last 5 games when they fell to a 1-3 defeat to promotion hopefuls Swansea City.
It’s fair to say the visitors haven’t been short of goals as of late, having scored three goals on three separate occasions in the last five games, in comparison to North End only scoring once in the league in all of January’s games. However, they do still find themselves in the relegation zone, two points adrift of Birmingham City with two games in hand.
The reverse fixture saw a disappointing result in South Yorkshire for Preston, with the home side handing us our first defeat on the road of the season after Ryan Ledson had equalised with his first goal in a North End shirt. A late counter attack from the Millers saw Matt Crooks score a late winner and send Preston back home over the Pennines empty handed.
North End will want to start this month off strongly after a few weeks with no midweek fixtures and some exciting business on transfer deadline day to bring a busy month to a close.
We announced three new signings on Monday night with Liam Lindsay, Sepp van den Berg and Anthony Gordon all signing on the dotted line and adding to Alex Neil’s options for the second half of the season.
As I’ve previously mentioned, Rotherham have been in free-flowing form in front of goal in recent games, and a player who has surprisingly contributed to that on a regular occurrence is Matt Crooks. Predominantly a midfielder, the former Northampton man has played a number of positions this season in Paul Warne’s side, and he’s managed three goals and two assists in his last five appearances.
He has featured in a slightly higher role supporting the striker a few times this season which seems to have suited him after claiming five goals and two assists so far this campaign. North End will be well aware of the midfielder after he scored the winner when we visited the New York Stadium back in early November.
Secondly, I would like to pick out one of Rotherham’s January additions in Ryan Giles. After spending last campaign and the first half of this campaign on loan to Coventry, Rotherham managed the get the youngster on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers for the remainder of the campaign.
He’s made three appearances off the bench so far for the Millers, scoring twice and with the Rotherham fans seemingly very impressed with his contributions from the bench, he may be due a start at Deepdale on Saturday.
With Rotherham in pretty decent form of late and getting some fantastic results against the likes of Middlesbrough and Derby County who have improved considerably under the tenure of Wayne Rooney, they’ve shown they can compete. After being known as a yoyo team in recent years, they will be keen to continue this run and make the most of the momentum they have and steer themselves away from the relegation zone.
Despite that, I think the January additions for North End could give the squad a bit of a boost and provide real competition for places, particularly in midfield. I would expect to see a number of the new additions playing on Saturday afternoon but depending on whether or not some of the loan deals are turned into permanent deals may determine who plays and who doesn’t.
One of the loans that has apparently been turned into a permanent signing is Greg Cunningham, but at the time of writing, that’s not been confirmed by the club. Peter Ridsdale confirmed on the From the Finney podcast this week that he hoped to have two wrapped up before the weekend.
As for a starting XI, I’m going to go with: Iversen; Browne, Huntington, Lindsay, Hughes; Whiteman, Molumby; Barkhuizen, Johnson, Sinclair; Riis.
I would hope to see Anthony Gordon feature, but can’t see Alex Neil giving the Everton loanee a start just yet. I fully expect to see a debut for Stoke loanee Liam Lindsay who may be a big plus for us against this Rotherham side who have scored 37% of their goals from set pieces this season, so a 6ft 4 defender in Liam Lindsay should help us defend from those situations.
Alex Neil also confirmed Sean Maguire was expecting to start training again on Thursday, so we may well see him feature on Saturday afternoon after being missing for a few weeks.
As for the scoreline, I think I’m going to go with a 2-1 win for North End, which is the same score as the last time Preston beat Rotherham at Deepdale after Johnson Clarke-Harris scored a 94th minute own goal to gift North End the 3 points back in 2016.
Hopefully, we will get back to winning ways after a miserable January on the pitch, and fingers crossed, the January additions can make a positive start to their spells at Deepdale.
Finally, another reminder for the latest episode of the From the Finney podcast with Peter Ridsdale. Also, if you haven’t read my piece on Jayson Molumby, that’s here. Make sure you give us a follow on twitter here – @fromthefinney.