View from the opposition: Preston are finding goals hard to come by
Preston supporter Jake Oates, who writes for fan website fromtheFinney, is in the hot seat ahead in our Q&A session ahead of the FA Cup third-round clash with Norwich City at Deepdale
Q: After such a promising start to the season, why have Preston fallen away of late?
A: Simply put, we've struggled for goals. We dominated the 0-0 draw against Cardiff just before Christmas but couldn't find the back of the net. Arguably we could have had more than the solitary goal we did score against Leeds United on Boxing Day but again, we couldn't score. The two most recent games against Reading and Middlesbrough we struggled for large parts against two teams that, when they scored against us, sat back and hit us on the break. In the Reading game we weren't without our chances and missed a couple of decent opportunities but in fairness, the keeper made a couple of decent saves too. I think there were other factors at play too, especially in the two most recent games. After two tough away trips that the players put a lot into, I think an element of tiredness or fatigue has crept in recently. Ultimately though, it's tough to put it down to an exact cause.
Q: Can Preston stay in the promotion mix?
A: Absolutely. We have shown that our squad is more than capable of challenging at the top end of the Championship. With some quality through the door in January, I see no reason why we can't repeat what we did in the first half of the season.
Q: How important is the FA Cup to Preston?
A: Not very, to be honest. I said in a recent podcast we did with Neil Mellor that I wouldn't be against a cup run, but considering how big an opportunity we have to challenge for promotion this season, it would be remiss of the manager to focus too heavily on progressing in the FA Cup. I'd take a win though, all day long.
Q: How do the Preston fans regard Alex Neil and the job he's done at Deepdale?
A: He's superb. He's probably the best manager we've had since David Moyes in my lifetime and though I don't know much about how he was at Norwich, I feel like he's a completely different and better manager since he was in charge at Carrow Road. We have a bottom five or six budget in the Championship and in his first season we finished seventh. Last season we flirted with the top six, but ultimately injuries and poor form at the start of the season cost us and this season he took us to the summit of the Championship, the highest we have been in a very long time. Since going top we have pretty much consistently been in and around the top six. Despite sitting 10th at the moment we are only two points off the top six.
Q: Will he make many changes to the starting XI that lost to Boro?
A: I suspect he'll make wholesale changes. As I said we have been struggling a bit recently and with a few fringe players waiting for an opportunity, this is their chance to prove what they can do. Especially for the likes of Tom Bayliss and Josh Ginnelly.
Q: Who is Preston's main dangerman and why?
A: Normally I would say Daniel Johnson but he's out injured at the moment but even if he wasn't, he probably wouldn't play against Norwich. A player who I think will play that could be one to watch is Tom Bayliss. The 20-year old was signed from Coventry in the summer and hasn't been given many opportunities so far this season, despite coming in with much potential and us also spending a fair amount of money on him, by our standards.
Q: What's your prediction?
A: I think the game will finish a draw at 2-2.
You can follow Jake at twitter.com/jioates as well as at www.fromthefinney.co.uk and twitter.com/fromthefinney