Preston North End are back on the road again this Wednesday as Alex Neil takes his men down to the Bet365 stadium to take on Michael O’Neill’s Stoke City.

We head down there on the back of our 2-1 win over Wigan Athletic on Saturday lunchtime and I would imagine the squad and the management staff are hoping to extend our current unbeaten away run to 6 games while also making it 6 games unbeaten on the bounce, home and away.

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This run of form that we currently find ourselves on has come at a good time. We had our worst run of the season over the festive period (November 23rd – January 1st) and only managed to pick up 8 points from a possible 30. Those points came from a win over Fulham, a win over Luton Town and two draws away to Cardiff City and Leeds United.

However, since our only January signing in Scott Sinclair, came in through the door in January we are unbeaten. We’ve played 5 games, won 3 and drawn 2, scoring 9 goals with Sinclair scoring once in that time.

He also, as Oli pointed out in this week’s episode of the pod, had a huge part to play in the build-up to Barky’s goal against Wigan on Saturday. Check it out below.

Potential Dangers

There’s no denying that Stoke, looking at their squad on paper, are in a false position in the table.

Despite a tough season so far, there are a few standout players in the Stoke side. For me, Joe Allen is an obvious one here, even though he’s not an out and out goal threat, he’ll contribute with a goal or an assist from time to time too.

The Welshman has 3 goals and 2 assists to his name so far this season but he also has the ability to dictate the play on his day.

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As we mentioned on this week’s episode of the From the Finney podcast, it’s going to be the battle of the mop heads in the middle of the park with Ben Pearson and Joe Allen both coming up against one another.

The other player that I think is an obvious one to keep an eye on, especially considering his recent form, is Tyrese Campbell.

The 20-year-old made his Stoke debut in 2018 before the Potters were relegated. He played 76 minutes in that first season making 4 appearances off the bench.

The season after he played 146 minutes with 2 starts and one appearance off the bench for Stoke City before going on loan to Shrewsbury Town in January 2019 for the remainder of that season.

This season though, he’s taken his game to new heights. In his last 6 games, he has scored 4 goals or 5 goals in his last 10. Stoke haven’t lost a game that he has scored in either this season with 3 of those goals coming against teams in and around the top 6 in West Brom, Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday so let’s hope he doesn’t make us pay on Wednesday night.

Opposition View

This week, we have David Collishaw of the Wizards of Drivel podcast, a fan-run, Stoke City pod. You can find them on twitter here – @wizardsofdrivel. Also, check out their site and podcast and everything else Wizards of Drivel here – wizardsofdrivel.com.

A tale of two cities. Under Nathan Jones we were hoping for our luck to change, then for signs of a recovery, then we were finally waiting for the axe to fall. When it eventually did it was a relief for all concerned. We were lifeless, luckless and seemingly out of ideas.

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Michael O’Neill though has come in and galvanised this squad into a proper outfit – while not at all perfect he’s instilled a belief that was sorely lacking – in both the players and fans. From two points in our opening ten games to five points clear of the drop is miraculous.

Despite recent good form survival is still the absolute priority, but if we’re anything like what we have been so far under MON then that should be straight forward enough. There are four stinking sides at the bottom end of the table and to finish below them would be a disaster.

If we finish above last seasons 16th, Michael O’Neill will really have done something outstanding given our position when he took over.

My XI prediction for the game is – Butland; Smith, Batth, Chester, Martins Indi; Clucas, Allen; Ince, Powell, McClean; Campbell – an unchanged team from our 3-1 win over Charlton.

Finally, the fact I’d take a point says a lot about our respective seasons. 2-1 to Preston.

Predictions

This is a tough one. Heading into this, I would take a draw on the road away at the Potters to keep us ticking over and keep the unbeaten run going but I’m going to go with a 2-1 win.

I think we’ll go a goal down in the first half but will come back with two goals in the second half. I think DJ will get on the scoresheet again to keep his current run of form going and make it two goals against Stoke City this season.

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As far as an XI prediction, I don’t think there’ll be too much different than what we’ve seen recently. I’ll go with: Rudd; Fisher, Bauer, Davies, Rafferty; Pearson, Browne; Barkhuizen, Johnson, Sinclair; Nugent.

What Oli said in this week’s pod has been on my mind about our XI for this game. With Hughes, according to Oli, having a hamstring complaint I’m going to go along with that and say Raff will be back in. Also, I think Maguire will make way for Nuge.

Nugent coming in for this one will provide us with a bit more mobility up top and someone with his experience and know-how could prove useful against Stoke’s centre-halves.

Let us know on twitter (@fromthefinney) how you think this game will go and what score you think it will be. Two final things before we finish this…

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