Despite not having the toughest fixtures on paper, it’s been a tough old start to the 2021-22 Championship season for Preston North End.
Frankie McAvoy secured the head coach role on a permanent basis having only lost one of his eight matches in caretaker charge, but he hasn’t been able to transfer the good form into the new campaign.
With just Matthew Olosunde and Izzy Brown as new faces in the squad since the end of last season, McAvoy had the exact same players to choose from for the opening day clash against Hull City as the two fresh acquisitions are both on the sidelines, and they were duly hammered 4-1 by the Tigers at Deepdale.
That result looks even worse now following Hull’s 3-0 home defeat by QPR on Saturday, and on the same day North End were defeated yet again, this time away at Reading where it finished 2-1.
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The only positive the Lilywhites have going into tomorrow’s clash with Huddersfield Town is that the Terriers were shaken up as well with a 5-1 drubbing by Fulham – let’s see what team McAvoy could select against Carlos Corberan’s side.
Many PNE fans would probably be happy for McAvoy to abandon the 5-3-2 formation and go to a back four with wingers, but it doesn’t feel like that will be happening anytime soon due to the personnel available.
Two players who really disappointed against Reading were centre-backs Jordan Storey and Liam Lindsay, and they could be dropped in favour of Patrick Bauer – who hasn’t appeared in a Championship match since December against AFC Bournemouth after being struck down with an achilles injury – and Liverpool loanee Sepp van den Berg.
Van den Berg played at wing-back against the Royals but moving him back into a central role could see captain Alan Browne play as a makeshift wing-back – it’s the position he scored twice from against the Terriers last season and considering he’s failed to impress in his first two matches of the season, so it could be a chance for him to find some form again.
Ben Whiteman may find himself recalled to the line-up to let Daniel Johnson push up the pitch a bit more and if Ched Evans isn’t fit yet again then it’s likely that Scott Sinclair and Emil Riis continue in a front two.
If North End fans were asked on who they’d like to see in the team and what formation be used, a high percentage would probably prefer a winger system as well as youngsters such as Lewis Leigh and Joe Rodwell-Grant given a chance, as well as new signing Jamie Thomas from Bamber Bridge.
That doesn’t look like it will happen for now though but another loss tomorrow evening could change things drastically.