Whilst it was only against League Two opposition, a 3-0 victory over Mansfield Town for Preston North End in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday would have been a welcome relief to Frankie McAvoy following a horror first performance in-front of home fans.
Despite getting off to the best possible start early on against Hull City on Saturday, North End were humiliated 4-1 by the Tigers on their own turf and all the good work that McAvoy had done as caretaker manager at the end of the 2020-21 campaign was now firmly in the past.
There was immense concern going into the new season regarding PNE’s transfer activity – that was despite bringing back three players who played a part in their good end to the previous campaign – and supporters’ worst fears were realised just before full-time as Andy Cannon slammed in Hull’s fourth.
Calls to play promising youngsters such as Lewis Leigh and Joe Rodwell-Grant against Mansfield in midweek fell upon deaf ears as McAvoy stuck with a strong squad, with some players definitely showing that they deserve to be in the line-up against Reading this weekend.
Let’s have a look at how PNE could line-up at the Madejski Stadium tomorrow afternoon.
As you can see there are a few changes from the drubbing from Hull, and this team includes a few players who impressed against Mansfield, including two-goal Scott Sinclair and Patrick Bauer.
Liam Lindsay didn’t cover himself in glory against Hull and now that Bauer has proven his fitness following a lengthy absence due to an Achilles injury, he can take his place in the middle of a back three and Sepp van den Berg can also play at wing-back instead of Tom Barkhuizen.
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Naturally a winger, Sinclair is going to have to adapt his game this season if McAvoy is going to play a system without wide players, and scoring twice through the middle on Tuesday would have done his selection chances no harm.
In midfield, neither of the trio impressed on Saturday which is why Daniel Johnson gets a recall as the most advanced midfielder ahead of captain Alan Browne, who for this match should take a spot on the bench.
This line-up means that McAvoy may have a strong bench to choose from, which could feature Browne, Ched Evans, Tom Barkhuizen and perhaps one or two youngsters looking to make an impact in the senior squad.
And North End are facing Reading at a perfect time with the Royals having only made one signing so far this summer and losing two key players in Omar Richards and Michael Olise – by the end of the transfer window their side could look completely different so it is a good chance for PNE to pick up three points on the road – just like they did at the Madejski Stadium last season.