It’s derby day again as North End face Wigan Athletic in the early kick-off on Saturday at the DW stadium. Alex Neil and his men will be looking to close the gap on the top 6 after going unbeaten in their last 4 games.
Wigan, on the other hand, will be looking to get themselves out of the relegation zone. The Latics currently find themselves sat in 22nd and 2 points off Stoke City in 21st.
The Latics will be looking to build on two very strong performances with back to back wins against Yorkshire sides in Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United. The win against Wednesday came at the DW as a late winner from Jamal Lowe secured all 3 points as Paul Cook’s men came from behind.
They then took that momentum into the game against Leeds. Wigan took advantage of a very poor Leeds performance and a Pablo Hernandez own goal gave the Lancashire side another 3 points at Elland Road and their first back to back wins of the season.
North End go into the game sitting in 7th, just 3 points off Bristol City whilst looking to close the 5 point gap off 3rd place Fulham. A victory at the DW would be the first back to back wins on the road this season for us after picking up 3 points against strugglers Barnsley.
Wigan have shown in recent games they do have the quality to hurt even the best teams in the league, so North End can’t go into this game underestimating the quality of this Wigan side.
For me, the man to watch out for would be 6′ 4″ striker Kieffer Moore who scored in their last home game against Sheffield Wednesday.
The Welsh international only has 3 goals to his name this season but has been a handful for a few teams this season with his aerial presence. The 27-year-old could prove dangerous from set-pieces which is certainly something North End can look slightly shaky with.
The second potential danger I’d pick out of this Wigan side is defender Chey Dunkley. He’s been a massive figure for Wigan, this season in particular. He has 5 goals to his name this season which is an impressive stat for a centre half. He’s another threat from set-pieces for Wigan as many teams have learnt this season.
He even won championship player of the month for September after scoring 3 goals in 3 games. Two of those coming against Charlton Athletic with a towering header and a well-timed volley.
So North End will definitely have to be well structured at the back and especially on set pieces as that’s likely to be the way Wigan will look to break us down.
This week for our Opposition View, we have the return of Wigan fan James Mitchell. You can find James on twitter here – @JamesSaintLatic.
I could go on forever about our season so far but the simple way to describe it would be underwhelming. Back in August when we had spent around 8 million on players there was an air of optimism around the DW but sadly that had soon shifted.
A run of 1 win in 16 took us to a point where at half time against Sheffield Wednesday last Tuesday we were potentially eight points from safety but what a 135 minutes (or so) we’ve had since then.
A good second-half display got us the deserved win against Sheffield Wednesday and then we go to Leeds and win (AGAIN). Don’t get me wrong the Leeds win had a lot of luck, particularly first half, but we’ve all been on both ends of games like that throughout a season so there’s no guilt on our part!
Anyway, that leaves us two points from safety and yourselves three points from the play-offs going into Saturday which makes the game even bigger.
As far as our expectations for the rest of the reason it’s quite simple. Stay up!
I, like many, thought we were done a couple of games ago and now we’ve got a glimmer of hope. Stay up and then maybe it’s time for a change of manager (I think it was that 2 months ago!) is the best we can hope for at the moment. Although we could be 14th by May and I’m eating humble pie regarding Paul Cook.
We’ve played different formations in the last two games, 4-2-3-1 at home and 5-3-2 away so I’d expect to see us line up 4-2-3-1 again for this one. That would be – Marshall; Byrne, Kipre, Naismith, Robinson; Evans, Morsy; Massey, Williams, Lowe; Moore.
That could be wrong though we have a few players like Jacobs and maybe even Geldhart who come in and out of the team plus three deadline day signings on loan who were ineligible at the weekend.
As far as a score prediction goes I think there will be a lot of optimism from our fans but I’m not convinced we’ve turned a corner just yet. I’ve seen a few Preston fans saying you never win here so maybe you’re due but I’m going to go with a 1-1. I think we will take that with Boro at home midweek but more than anything I’m just hoping we get a good performance.
With both teams in good form going into the derby it has the potential to serve up quite a few goals, especially with a few players coming back into contention from injuries for North End. I do think it’ll be a tough test but I fancy North End to register their first win at the DW since April 2000.
Hopefully, we see a similar performance from Scott Sinclair that we saw against Swansea at the weekend.
He will undoubtedly be looking to get onto the scoresheet for the second game running after scoring a great goal on his left foot against his former side Swansea City.
The likes of Ben Pearson and Josh Harrop will be looking to continue their impressive form with Harrop being nominated for Championship player of the month for January after finally getting a regular run in the side and showing us all what he’s capable of.
My prediction for this one is – Wigan Atheltic 2-3 Preston North End.
As for the starting eleven, I think Neil will go with his usual 4-2-3-1 formation with – Rudd; Fisher, Bauer, Davies, Hughes; Pearson, Johnson; Barkhuizen, Harrop, Sinclair; Stockley.
I think Stockley will come in for this one to provide a bit more of a physical threat up top to prevent a Barkhuizen or Maguire becoming isolated against Wigan’s physical defence.
With players such as Andrew Hughes and Paul Gallagher becoming available again, it makes the overall depth of the squad a lot stronger and leaves Neil with a number of options to go for so I may well be way off with that one.
Personally, I think a stronger forward like Stockley could be a good way of combatting Wigan’s physicality and getting us the 3 points to keep us in touch with the top 6.
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