Preston suffered another blow on Saturday afternoon, with Louis Moult suffering a major knee injury.
North End lost 3-2 at Swansea City, and the misery was compounded with Moult’s knee injury. The club are waiting for results on a scan, but with a torn anterior cruciate ligament suspected, Moult’s season may be over already.
David Nugent is injured too, and Seani Maguire appears to be more at home out wide. It’s almost like North End are being made to pay for not signing another striker this summer…
All of that leaves North End scrambling up top, as winger Andre Green was used up top in a strange move, which poses questions about Jayden Stockley.
Many North End fans like Stockley. The £750,000 January signing from Exeter showed promise last season, scoring four times in 17 games. However, the warning signs were there about his role under Alex Neil.
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On more than one occasion last season, Stockley was substituted at half time, with Neil opting for a different approach. Stockley also endured a mixed pre-season, and has been left on the bench for the first three league games.
He appeared short of confidence at Bradford in the Carabao Cup, and wasn’t even used against Swansea on Saturday despite Moult’s injury. Green has no experience as a striker, but he was preferred to Stockley against the Swans.
The 25-year-old does have his attributes; he’s strong in the air, he can battle defenders, his link-up play is decent and he’s arguably North End’s most potent striker inside the six yard box.
However, he doesn’t have the mobility that Neil is looking for. That affects the fluidity of North End’s attacking play, often resorting to long, direct balls rather than a more balanced build-up, and also impacts the effectiveness of Preston’s pressing play.
Stockley is more one-dimensional than Jordan Hugill was, and claims that they were similar over the summer was always misplaced. Neil doesn’t appear to be fully sold on Stockley, just months after luring him to Deepdale.
The thing is though, players have often been able to force their way back in under Neil. Moult was one of them, starting against Wigan having previously been set for the exit. Daniel Johnson was in a similar boat too, and Brandon Barker got himself back involved last season having been pushed aside at one point.
Stockley’s Preston career is far from over, but he has work to do in order to regain his starting spot. His role is already under question, and whilst Moult’s injury may give him a route back into the team, his lack of involvement in the league this season raises questions about Neil’s confidence in him right now.