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Preston post-match notebook: 4 wins on the bounce as McAvoy edges closer to a permanent job

Preston North End finished the season on a high on Saturday as they came from behind to beat Nottingham Forest 2-1.

It was the fourth win in a row, and it meant Frankie McAvoy finishes his spell as interim manager with 17 points from eight games. He could barely have done any more, as Preston finished 13th in the Championship.

McAvoy’s hat firmly thrown in the ring

When Frankie McAvoy was given the reins on a temporary basis after the sacking of Alex Neil, not many expected him to be a leading contender for the job on a full time basis. Only ever an assistant in his coaching career, fans were hoping for a more established name to lead the club into a brighter future.

Whilst we don’t yet know what will happen in the summer, McAvoy has displayed his passion and love for the club. The players are clearly playing for him, and the turnaround in form has been sensational.

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Only Brentford have performed better in the form table since McAvoy’s arrival, and onlythhe Bees and Watford have conceded fewer goals than North End in those eight games too.

Paul Gallagher and Steve Thompson are a trustworthy duo to have in the coaching set-up as well, the club may look to go for a smooth transition and give the reins to them on a permanent basis. Even if he doesn’t get the top job, I think it would only be right that Frankie stays on in some capacity.

Regardless of what does happen, it’s a perfect way to end the season, on Gentry Day, and on the day when Frankie McAvoy’s late father would have been celebrating his 80th birthday.

A rare comeback

This season under Alex Neil, when North End went a goal down, that would usually be the game done and dusted. The team had little fight when they went behind. Heads would drop and there would be a complete lack of creativity or creative flair in the side. It would often result in long balls and it was incredibly frustrating to watch.

However, on Saturday after James Garner’s great opener for Forest, North End carried on believing. They were the much better side in the second half.

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Ched Evans and Scott Sinclair linked up well, and they stretched the Nottingham Forest backline. It left holes for players like Tom Bayliss and even Liam Lindsay to run into. The two goals were deserved even if Bayliss’s goal was a little lucky.

The formation that McAvoy has gone with has really suited this group of players; a group of players that were struggling a couple of months ago, and a group that was very new to each other. Whilst the season ended in a mid-table finish, it was better than we expected just a few games ago. But it was great to see smiles on the player’s faces, and they were clearly enjoying their football again. It bodes well for the summer.

An all-round team performance

The team has had a settled look to it of late, with the lineup not producing many surprised. McAvoy knew what was working and didn’t tinker with it too much. The lads knew their roles and delivered. Wing-backs were working hard and players like Jordan Storey stepped up to the plate after an indifferent first half of the season. There has been a real togetherness in the squad. Ched Evans has been the focal point we needed up front, and then the players in and around him have caused problems for the opposition.

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Loanees like Daniel Iversen and Sepp van den Berg have improved each and every game, and I hope we are able to see them in person at Deepdale next season. The fans and team need to be united all pushing in the right direction. The character of the current squad is great, and that is just as important as ability when recruiting new players in the summer. A lot of this squad are honoured to play for Preston North End. The arrivals in January have embraced their chances and from interviews you can gather they have enjoyed their time here even without having the chance to play in front of the fans.

It’s a huge few months ahead for the club, but we’ve certainly ended the season in a much better position than you would have anticipated just a couple of months ago.

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