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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Looking Forward to Preston...

There were many people anticipating a defeat last weekend, 0-2 seemed to be a favorite scoreline, only to be pleasantly surprised by a stunning 4-2 victory. All reports are gushing in praise of not only new boy Bailey but Holland, Varney, Bouazza and just about everyone else. Of course, Pards was over the moon and emphasized the determination of the team in not letting the 3 points get away from us after another debatable referring decision had appeared to ruin the game, this time in a twice taken penalty. But, and there's always a but, after all the good stuff he wasn't getting carried away and stressed that it's nothing if we don't follow it up with a similar performance at Preston North End next weekend.

So, as a win is soon forgotten, its on to Game 4 of the season and if you still experience the odd pang of nostalgia for times past, bear a thought for the fans of Preston. One of the 12 founder members of the Football League back in 1888, along with the likes of Burnley and Derby, they were crowned League Champions for the first two years and after three spells in the Second Division were sadly relegated 47 years ago and haven't been back since. A long wait then for something to happen with only an FA Cup win back in 1938 to allay the boredom.

So with happy days far behind them, Preston finished last season 15th in the fizzies, 8 points worst off than the Addicks, with a better home record of a couple more wins but only half of the 8 away wins that we managed. That trend was totally reversed in our games against them last season as we won 2-0 at Deepdale for the first time in 53 years but lost at home 1-2.

That home defeat was on March 8, just 4 days after the 1-1 draw with Bristol, and was the first of three straight defeats to Preston, Burnley and Ipswich that really finished off our season.

The Opposition

They have started well this season, with a 2-1 win at Ipswich on day 1 after going behind to a Lisbie goal in the 2nd minute, they then beat Chesterfield 2-1 in the League Cup and then Palarse 2-0, both games being at Deepdale. And on Saturday they dropped points for the first time with a 1-1 draw at Sheff.Wed again after going behind. So they're equal 2nd on 7 points. A 0-1 home defeat to Derby in the League Cup on Tuesday rather spoil the progress but their excuse will be that four changes were made to the usual Fizzy team so its the reserves to blame.

Two of Preston's players have already received Team-of-the-week accolades, in Week Two, left-back Callum Davidson, and midfielder Paul McKenna but problems with the Football League website prevents me from pointing this out and you can't see Therry Racons place in week One either.

They're also the epitome of a settled side. Where the Addicks have already use 18 players, Preston have only called on 15 and would have started every game with the same eleven if it hadn't been for the knee injury to ex-Blackburn left-back Callum Davidson against Palarse and its not clear yet if he'll play against us as there was no sign of him in the League Cup on Tuesday. And as you would perhaps expect from a settled side they have a few long service players in their midst. Main man is captain and midfielder Paul McKenna with reportedly 427 appearances, and 28 goals, for Preston behind him.

With a five man midfield width is provided by Simon Whaley and Chris Sedgwick and with only one forward, the goals have to come from somewhere and Sedgwick is, currently, the only midfielder who hasn't scored yet this season.

Manager Alan Irvine, who joined Preston just before our win there in last November began his rebuilding with the purchase of 23 year old Richard Chaplow, signed in January from West Brom for over £1m. An former U-21 England international, he made his debut for West Brom at the Valley in March 2005 in a defeat that we all remember. He it was that was brought down for the penalty that gave Earnshaw his hat-trick in the 1-4 defeat. He's already scored twice this season. Irvine seems to specialize in only buying players that will go straight into his first-team and the latest is experienced 30 year old Scottish international Barry Nicholson, ex-Aberdeen, who arrived in June on a free transfer and has already scored.

In a team of English speakers there's only one foreign voice that of Frenchman, and defensive rock, centre-half Youl Mawene, an ex of Lens and Derby. But probably the key man for them is their one man up front, number 33 Neil Mellor, scorer of 10 goals last season and who has apparently scored 8 goals in Prestons pre-season and already off the mark with the two goals that sunk Tier Four Chesterfield in the League Cup. He started with Liverpool and played 12 first team games for them before injury ruined his chances.

One man missing from last season will be ex-Addick,Kevin Nicholls, who has now left for Luton.

A tight little team they don't score a lot but don't concede either. Only 4 teams scored less goals at home last season but then again Hull, Ipswich and Leicester (!) conceded less than their 20 goals. And they have improved since we beat them in November last year. Of the twelve played at home since the beginning of the year they've only lost to Palarse and Barnsley, have won 9 (Scunthorpe, Watford, West Brom, Coventry, Stoke, Wolves, Burnley, Sheff.U and Palarse) and drawn against Ipswich. So of the last 36 points available at home they've managed to get 28! But they have continued their low scoring and only managed to score more than twice on one occasion, 3-1 to Sheff.U.


Last season saw our first win since Oct 1954, a gap of 53 years. Not previously a very happy hunting ground, last year's 2-0 win with goals by ZiZi and Varney was our 4th win on the trot and cemented our 2nd place in the table, albeit 5 points behind Watford.

In fact Deepdale is just about the most inhospitable place to visit for the Addicks in the whole of the fizzies as we have our worst record when playing there with us having lost 20 out of the 30 League games. Of the rest we've won just 5 with 5 draws.

The Addicks

In contrast to Preston nobody can accuse us of being settled and they'll be, at most, just 5 members of the team that won 2-0 at Deepdale last November. But after last weeks showing it would appear silly of Pards to change things around and not keep a winning team. But Preston will be a tough nut to crack, and with so many midfielders around at Deepdale, and a clue coming in his 60 minutes played against Swindon on Wednesday afternoon, we could see Darren Ambrose replacing Lloyd Sam on the right.

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