Preston North End v Blackpool - Capital One Cup First Round
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Here's where the Lancashire derby will be won or lost for Preston North End tonight

On Tuesday night Preston North End will battle against Blackpool in the first game between the two sides at Deepdale for nearly nine years.

On that night in the League Cup first round in 2013, the Lilywhites came away triumphant after a famous late winner from Tom Clarke.

Simon Grayson was no stranger to those games, and as Preston manager that night he set the team up perfectly to restrict and then beat a side in the league above them. It was a memorable night, and the North End faithful will be hoping for similar scenes this time around.

The fixture at Bloomfield Road earlier in the season was one to forget for Preston. The players weren’t up to it and Frankie McAvoy didn’t seem how to motivate them. It was a similar case in the away game against Blackburn Rovers albeit in atrocious conditions. Ryan Lowe now has the opportunity to gain revenge over both Lancashire rivals and he strikes you as someone who will relish these encounters.

The 5th of April 2022 also signals the 100th birthday of Sir Tom Finney and a flag is set to be revealed before kick-off, which will be an emotional occasion.

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The fans will be in full voice right before kick-off and with a limited away end for the Blackpool fans, this is a huge opportunity for the North End faithful to make Deepdale a cauldron and gain an advantage straight away. The players will be in the tunnel when the flag is unveiled and they will be able to hear the atmosphere from the stands. It’s the environment that every player should want to play in.

From the first minute every tackle from a Preston player will matter. It’s the type of game that Ryan Ledson would be perfect for, and the sort that Tom Clarke would have relished. We need players to step up and be counted, to wear their heart on their sleeve and understand just how important this game is for the fans. Players like Patrick Bauer, Sepp van den Berg, Andrew Hughes, Ben Whiteman and Brad Potts strike me as players who would be desperate to make a name for themselves in this fixture – to make a crunching tackle early on to get the fans on side.

We need to make a fast start to the fixture. We quite often do but then don’t make the most of it. An early goal would help settle the nerves and Blackpool may struggle to get back into it. If we grab an early lead, the atmosphere will be great and it can help carry the side through.

Preston struggle with goals in the first half of games though, especially under Ryan Lowe. They haven’t scored in the first half of the last twelve games. Not since Emil Riis’ first half strike away to West Bromwich Albion in the 2-0 win in January. Preston haven’t scored at all in the last three games.

With that in mind, Riis must start. He is the top scorer this season, having scored eleven goals more than anyone else at the club. Lowe has gone with Cameron Archer and Ched Evans as the front two a few times of late, and on Saturday after starting all three strikers, he hooked Riis in the wake of Liam Lindsay’s second red card in three games. Riis as the ability to score a goal out of nowhere. He’s ambitious with his shots and has a very powerful strike on him. He simply has to start.

PRESTON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 27: Preston North End’s Emil Riis Jakobsen during the Carabao Cup Round of 16 match between Preston North End and Liverpool at Deepdale on October 27, 2021 in Preston, England. (Photo by Alex Dodd – CameraSport via Getty Images)

We also need a performance from our captain. Alan Browne has probably struggled to match his peak Preston performances for the past three seasons now. In the 2018/19 season he was in incredible form, scoring twelve goals and in the league that season. Since then he has scored just four, four and so far two this campaign. Browne doesn’t have the same presence on the pitch as he once used to. He used to drive us upfield and was relied upon for scoring crucial goals as well. He doesn’t get himself in those attacking areas anywhere near as often now.

Browne will be desperate to put in a good performance in this fixture having been sent off late in the earlier game between the two sides. We need a captain’s performance from him. He has to lead by example, keep his head, and be heard on the pitch.

His fellow midfielder Daniel Johnson loves a derby game having popped up with goals on a regular basis in other Lancashire derby fixtures. DJ has the quality to unlock a defence and also find the net with his left foot. Again, like Browne, he hasn’t reached the heights he is capable of of late, and as one of the more experienced players in the squad he needs to lead by example.

Johnson has played in plenty of big games for Preston North End before, and he needs to show the younger players how important this game is. That starts in training, and carries on into the dressing room and onto the pitch.

The fans will demand a performance from their team on Tuesday. The season is pretty much done apart from this game and the home match against Blackburn Rovers. Get a win here, and things will suddenly look a lot rosier.

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