Preview: Preston North End

Where We Are

After our second league win of the season we find ourselves a mere 4 points off the rest of the league, it’s like we didn’t even have a points deduction in the first place. With Carlisle now off the mark with their first point of the season, the only team on 0 points is Graham Westley’s Stevenage who are away at Notts County today. The Sky Blues though are in top form though with our goal tally now at 13 in all competitions after 4 games.

Last week was a watershed moment for this team in that they managed their first clean sheet, but still kept scoring. The best thing is that we aren’t relying on any one player to score our goals, in contrast to last season, at the moment Leon Clarke, Callum Wilson and Billy Daniels have 3 each and are joint top scorers in the league (with about 10 other players). This match presents a chance for the team to do something they failed to do last season and that is to win 3 games in a row. A win tomorrow would also make the rest of the league sit up and take notice of how we’re doing and how lucky they are that SISU and ACL are the way they are, otherwise we’d have been promotion contenders.

On that note it’s disappointing that this week has been quiet in regards to the Ricoh row. No news is bad news for me as it suggests that no moves are being made to bring the club back to Coventry with both sides of the dispute giving each other the silent treatment. The longer this goes on then it increases the difficulty of enjoying the season so far. The long-term future of the club is at threat and with neither side willing to negotiate then it’s hard to see the club continuing to exist for much longer than a few more seasons, especially if star players/managers leave, results falter and we start to slide down a division or two.

Last Time We Played Them

The last time we met Preston it was part 3 of a trilogy of nasty encounters last season. The first part was a disappointing 1-1 draw at the Ricoh where Coventry failed to hold on to a lead yet again. The second part was that dramatic 3-2 win in the JPT area semi-final with those two late goals in the final minutes which most Coventry fans can still see if they close their eyes long enough. The final part was during what turned out to be one of the last vestiges of Mark Robins’s reign. We were hoping to reignite a faltering play-off charge but once again struggled to cope with Preston’s physical and cynical approach and failed to take full advantage of a side clearly struggling for form.

How Are They Doing?

After sacking Graham Westley in the spring they appointed ex-Leeds and Blackpool manager Simon Grayson who end the season well with them. During the summer they made several key additions including pacey winger Chris Humphrey from Motherwell but more notably is their capture of Kevin Davies under the noses of several Championship and MLS sides. On the pitch their only win of the season came in the cup against local rivals Blackpool but are unbeaten so far in the league with 3 draws so far. They haven’t conceded or scored that many but that could mean that they’ll be the best defence this Coventry team has faced so far (I anticipate their centre-halfs will be in less of a rush to give us goals this time).

The key man clearly is Kevin Davies and is someone who’ll pose the nascent centre-back Jordan Clarke with a genuine physical battle that’ll test his mental as well as physical strength. Davies though perhaps acts as a foil for Preston, distracting the opposition whilst the rest of their team provide the real threat. I would also watch out for striker Joe Garner (their only goal scorer in the league this year), they also have a number of wingers who can be threatening in this league in the shape of Lee Holmes, Chris Humphrey, Will Hayhurst and Jeffrey Monakana.

This will be a side desperately looking for a win, and also perhaps one that remembers the heartbreak they endured in the JPT so could have revenge on their mind. Furthermore this encounter is slowly developing into a rivalry (at least in some fans’ minds) and it will be interesting to see how previous events are perceived by both sides fans, players and managers.

Prediction

Preston seem like the kind of side that will trouble this young team, despite our run of form. A very physical and solidly defensive team, they’ll be difficult to break down and could potentially bully us on set pieces, which we’ve conceded a lot of goals from already. This isn’t a match I’m particularly looking forward to and I fear that this is too stern a test physically and mentally for a lot of players in this side. Furthermore with young players there is inconsistency and the potential for over-confidence and not having to work as hard as before. You’d imagine that Pressley would be able to prevent the younger players from coasting, (look at his comments regarding Callum Wilson and Billy Daniels’s places in the side) but inconsistency is hard to anticipate and coach out of players with out them first realising it and not impacting upon their confidence.

As you can guess I’m not very hopeful for this match, I predict a Preston win 2-0.

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