The 2-0 win over Coventry City on Tuesday made it three wins in a row with three clean sheets as well. In truth, I didn’t think I’d be writing that at any point this season, but it’s been a very tough one to predict.
Here are five things we learned from the Derby County and Coventry City games.
We Can Win The Ugly Way
Neither of the Christmas victories were pretty, far from it in fact. The game against Wayne Rooney’s Derby County on Boxing Day was a tough one to sit through. Despite Martyn Waghorn being sent off in the 20th minute, things didn’t really get any easier for us. The Rams defended resolutely (read more about their shape here) and as is often the case we struggle to break teams down.
It took a moment of brilliance from Alan Browne to get us the three points when it looked like it would just be the one. That changed the whole outlook for the rest of the day. What was looking like a disappointing Boxing Day was suddenly a merry one thanks to that late, late goal.
The Coventry game on Tuesday was one that the Sky Blues would feel hard done by leaving Deepdale with no points. Mark Robins said they probably deserved a win never mind a draw. They were a decent side, but we defended well and made the most of two half-chances.
Rare for us to not concede a sloppy goal ourselves but also convert from another side’s mistakes.
We’ve Coped Without Pearo
His injury was a massive blow. Considered the most important player in the squad for how we play, you’d always miss his range of passing, his pace, his passion and his tackling. Coupled with the fact that Ryan Ledson hasn’t been fully fit during that time as well, it is incredible we’ve managed this little run of form.
The midfield three of Alan Browne, Daniel Johnson and Paul Gallagher have provided us with the perfect blend. DJ and Alan Browne popping up with three goals between them in the last three games and Gally providing a man of the match performance against Bristol City and constantly showing his passing quality.
With Ledson, Brad Potts, Tom Bayliss and Josh Harrop able to come off the bench it shows the middle of the park continues to be the strongest area of the squad.
Consistency is Key
Three wins in a row is uncommon to see in this league. It makes a huge difference. If you’re able to put together a little run of form, you can go shooting up the table.
We’re four points off the play-offs now and whilst you could argue that this season has been poor so far with numerous bad results and very few performances that stick in the memory, it just shows what a tight league this is and probably always will be.
We’ve only drawn twice this season, it seems to be all or nothing with us. Whilst only three teams have lost more games, only three have won more than us. 11th place and four points off 6th is one you would take at this stage of the season all things considered. It keeps us in the mix and potentially points towards the possibility of us making some investment in the January transfer window.
I won’t hold my breath but we’ll wait and see.
Alan Browne, He’s Always in… Form on Boxing Day
Three goals in the last three Boxing Day games for the club captain. He led by example this year with his moment of brilliance to get the three points at Pride Park.
Dave Seddon said that the players were jubilant in the dressing room afterwards singing his ‘Baluga’ song. The Irishman obviously likes this time of year. He finished off a great team move to give us the lead away to Leeds last year on the 26th. In 2018 he scored another curled effort at home to Hull City.
Hopefully, he’ll still be here for Boxing Day 2021. Alex Neil loves him, the fans do, his teammates do. Sign on Alan!
Hunts Has Proven He Can Do a Job
Our longest serving player signed an extension to his contract this week to tie him down until 2022, taking him into his 10th season with the club.
He’s had an up and down spell at Deepdale and in 2014 he looked like he could be off with offers to move on, but he chose to stay, fight for his place in the XI and he also scored some crucial goals in our promotion season from League One in 2015.
He then kicked on in the Championship under Simon Grayson. His status as a modern day legend, in my opinion, can’t be questioned. He’s contributed to the last three clean sheets and is preferred to Jordan Storey who you might have expected to have more of an impact in his third season with North End.
Ben Davies looks to be off, Patrick Bauer is injured for the foreseeable but Paul Huntington can, for me at least, be relied upon when needed for another 18 months. He won’t be our first choice but there’s nothing wrong with having him available as an option for when we do need him.
Make sure you give the latest episode of the From the Finney podcast a listen as the lads review 2020, the two Christmas fixtures and look ahead to our game against Nottingham Forest on Saturday. Also, if you aren’t already, give us a follow on Twitter here – @fromthefinney.