Mansfield Town v Preston North End - Carabao Cup First Round
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In form, 'undroppable', but not scoring for PNE: how to solve a problem like Seani Maguire

At the start of this season it was clear Frankie McAvoy was going to persist with his favoured formation of 3-5-2.

Again for what seems like the 10th transfer window, fans were crying out for a striker to be brought in. Connor Wickham was the only out and out striker to arrive but is predictably injured already.

It’s meant Sean Maguire has had an opportunity to start, linking up with Emil Riis in the front pairing. If Maguire had have left the club in the summer, I don’t think too many fans would have argued the decision.

Yet as things stand he has started the last seven league games for the club, and has contributed to the unbeaten run.

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It’s worth noting that this will be one of the best runs in the team of his Preston North End career. Maguire hit the ground running when he arrived from Cork City in 2017 but suffered multiple setbacks with injuries later in that season.

Maguire never quite been the same player since, and has certainly never rediscovered his goalscoring form.

He scored 10 goals in just 24 league games in his first season, but hasn’t come close to hitting double figures since. He’s only scored one goal this season, and that came in the Carabao Cup. His overall record for North End stands at 23 goals in 140 games – just over one goal in every seven appearances.

Seani is not a goalscorer, but that’s not to say he doesn’t bring anything to the team. You can never doubt the effort he puts in. He isn’t the tallest of players, but usually has to deal with the Preston defence sending long balls up towards him.

PRESTON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 21: Preston North End’s Sean Maguire scores his teams 3rd goal during the Carabao Cup Third Round match between Preston North End and Cheltenham Town at Deepdale Stadium on September 21, 2021 in Preston, England. (Photo by Dave Howarth – CameraSport via Getty Images)

He does well considering, providing a decent foil for Riis. He battles away all game, and puts constant pressure on the opposition defence.

I’m sure Riis enjoys playing with him, as he helps create space for his teammate. However this team is lacking goals, so it may be time for a change. Riis is the only player who ever looks like scoring in all honesty. Most of our chances come through the Dane.

Josh Earl and Sepp van den Berg do their best to get forward down the wings, but when they have opportunities themselves, we are quickly reminded that they are just natural defenders by trade.

Daniel Johnson works tirelessly to get forward, and is a great link to the attackers. Unfortunately he hasn’t had much space around the edge of the box in recent games, to wrap his left foot around the ball, and have an effort on goal.

So does Riis need another partner alongside him? Well, what are the options? Ched Evans and Connor Wickham are the other strikers in the squad but both have their injury problems. Joe Rodwell-Grant has been on the fringes is still too young to be thrown into the first team.

The other options come from wide areas. Josh Murphy, Scott Sinclair and Tom Barkhuizen can all play as second strikers. These are players who won’t want long balls up to them. They would rather have the ball to feet, so they can stretch the defence with their pace. All too often when we try to counter, we lack an outlet to quickly get the ball up the pitch, and the opportunity is wasted.

Photo by Stephen White – CameraSport via Getty Images

Sinclair and Barkhuizen are great finishers as well, and you would back them to score given a decent opportunity. They are also quite good at creating chances for themselves. Either cutting inside and shooting, or having an effort from long range. Unfortunately we don’t see too many efforts from Maguire, as he rarely gets into the position to do so.

We haven’t seen too much from Murphy yet, but when he has played you can see he instantly wants to drive forward with the ball.

Maguire would find himself unlucky to be dropped, as he really has put in some excellent displays of late. This team needs goals though, and it needs wins. We’ve only scored ten in ten league games, and with just two wins, Frankie should probably roll the dice and try something new.

Maybe that could incorporate Maguire still but in a different formation. Frankie is the man in charge and needs to make these decisions. Sometimes I think he is just happy with mediocrity and picking up points here and there. But the fans would like to see a little more ambition, and more intent also.

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