On a night where the football world was continuing to break huge news every minute, there were actually some games taking place.
Preston North End secured a hugely important win against Wayne Rooney’s Derby County. Goals from Ben Whiteman, Ched Evans and Ryan Ledson secured a 3-0 win on the night and secured Championship football for next season. It also moves North End above Blackburn Rovers.
Whiteman off the mark
It’s taken him a while, but it was great to see Ben Whiteman score his first goal for Preston North End. The midfielder scored a few at Doncaster Rovers but we’ve yet to see him in many attacking positions since his arrival. On Tuesday he arrived late into the box to guide a header past David Marshall from Alan Browne’s cross. Whiteman was clearly delighted to get the goal which set Preston on their way after a promising start from Derby County.
Iversen up there with Pickford
In 2015 we were blessed to see Jordan Pickford in a Preston shirt during his loan spell from Sunderland. It was clear he would go on to bigger things and has done so with a big move to Everton and over three years as England’s number one. He’s the best we’ve seen at Deepdale in quite some time but Daniel Iversen is pushing him close right now.
The Dane put in yet another superb display on Tuesday night. The 23 year-old made a string of fine saves, surviving a deluge of Derby efforts particularly at the start of the second half. He’s so calm and collected. Strong in one on one situations and capable of plucking the ball out of the top corner. He’s been a revelation and is arguably just as important as the incoming manager situation in the summer. Bring Iversen back and Preston will have solid foundations for next season.
5 games, 8 points, 3 clean sheets
Frankie McAvoy has done what was required. The team were in free fall under Alex Neil. Could you have seen this return from the last five games under Neil? Probably not. McAvoy has changed the system with wing-backs employed so you have to give credit to him for that. Three clean sheets with a defence that probably needs some reinforcements in the summer is impressive.
Let’s not forget these were not easy fixtures either. We drew against Norwich City who are top of the league. We beat Swansea City who are battling for promotion and also Derby County who are fighting for the lives. The players have played as a unit. There is a clear togetherness and they have also played with a bit more freedom.
The treble over Derby
This win was the third against Derby this season. A win in the Carabao Cup at the start of the season was followed by a last minute winner from Alan Browne on Boxing Day. The Rams are now in serious danger of leaving the Chanpionship through the back door. For a team that has been pushing for promotion for the last decade it would be devastating for them.
However, personally I wouldn’t be sad to see them go. This made derive from when Billy Davies jumped ship to go and manage them but I’ve never been fond of Derby. A whole article could be written about their dodgy financial situation; selling the stadium to their owner just one of the things that have been frowned upon. They’ve splashed plenty of cash in the past and brought in high profile names like Philip Cocu and now Wayne Rooney.
Rooney looked to have steadied the ship at first but the former Manchester United striker cut a desolate figure on the touch line. He seemed unable to galvanise his side although they did come out all guns blazing in the second half. Ultimately they’ve lacked quality up front but they do still have some top players in their squad and shouldn’t be battling against relegation. I think Rotherham United may catch them in the next couple of weeks.
Time to give the kids a chance?
The next three games are effectively dead rubbers. It would be nice to see a few of the younger players given a chance. Lewis Coulton, Jacob Holland-Wilkinson, Joe Roswell-Grant and Lewis Leigh have all made the squad this season but none of them made it into the pitch. Academy prospects have had limited chances in the past few years hence why Tyrhys Dolan left to join Blackburn Rovers. Of course McAvoy will want to win the remaining games and give himself a good chance of landing the job permanently. But playing the youth would actually be a positive move. It would show the fans he had the intention to give them a chance and it might encourage Peter Ridsdale as well that there’s talent already there that we need to make the most of.