Preston’s 2-0 win over Brentford on Saturday afternoon was the perfect way to come out of the international break, with Seani Maguire and Tom Barkhuizen on the scoresheet.
North End got in front early, dug in when Brentford dominated possession and secured all three points with a well-worked second goal.
One of the real positives to come from the game was that Preston managed to win without Ben Pearson. As the heartbeat of the Preston side, Pearson will always be missed when unavailable.
It’s long been a concern that Preston struggle badly without Pearson, and his absence on Saturday was a concern. Pearson was out with a virus, meaning Alex Neil re-shuffled his midfield.
Paul Gallagher dropped to the bench, meaning Alan Browne and Ryan Ledson came in for Gallagher and Pearson. Ledson enjoyed a decent display but was eventually replaced by Gallagher, and that Tom Bayliss once again couldn’t even make the matchday squad sums up the embarrassment of riches at Neil’s disposal.
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Given that he’s now the club’s record signing, fans would have no doubt loved to have seen Bayliss by now. Coventry fans may even be wondering just why he hasn’t even kicked a ball in the Championship so far this season. The simple fact of the matter is that North End have something of a logjam in midfield.
Pearson, Gallagher, Browne, Ledson and Daniel Johnson have been Neil’s go-to midfielders so far, whilst Josh Harrop and Brad Potts can occupy central roles too. Bayliss just can’t get in right now, and that Gallagher and Potts came on as substitutes against Brentford just summed up the unbelievable midfield depth.
Bayliss may well be Gallagher’s heir, with a slow and steady approach taken with him. Next season may be the time for Bayliss to shine, taking over Gallagher’s role as the more progressive of the two central midfielders.
For now, Bayliss has to make do with a squad role and minutes in the cup. His time will come, and hopefully, he’ll live up to his billing.
It’s hard to remember North End having midfield depth like this before, and it could be the cornerstone of North End’s season, especially having just beaten a very good side without key man Pearson.