Preston North End starting XI: Rudd; Fisher, Storey, Bauer, Hughes, Rafferty; Ledson, Johnson, Browne; Maguire, Barkhuizen.
Preston North End substitutes: Hudson, Huntington, Gallagher, Potts, Harrop, Bodin, Sinclair, Nugent, Stockley.
Preston head to Brentford this evening with playoff hopes dwindling after Cardiff City’s win over Derby County last night.
North End now sit five points off the playoffs, and it’s likely that we now need to win every game to stand a chance of getting into the top six. That’s not an ideal situation in any circumstances, much less when you’re travelling to Brentford, who have won their last six games in a row.
Alex Neil goes with Declan Rudd in goal this evening, behind a back five of Darnell Fisher, Jordan Storey, Patrick Bauer, Andrew Hughes and Joe Rafferty.
Ryan Ledson, Daniel Johnson and Alan Browne line up in midfield, with Seani Maguire and Tom Barkhuizen up top. Ben Davies and Ben Pearson both miss out with injuries sustained against Nottingham Forest on Saturday afternoon.
Mathew Hudson, Paul Huntington, Paul Gallagher, Brad Potts, Josh Harrop, Billy Bodin, Scott Sinclair, David Nugent and Jayden Stockley make up the bench this evening.
This appears to be the 3-5-2 system Preston used against Sheffield Wednesday last week. With no Ben Davies available, Andrew Hughes will be pushed inside to play as the left-footed centre back.
That isn’t his natural role, but he will offer the balance that Neil is seeking. Joe Rafferty will switch over to the left wing back role, with Darnell Fisher down the right. It’s a bit of a shuffle around, so hopefully Preston can deal with that quickly.
Ryan Ledson is the natural replacement for Ben Pearson in midfield, whilst Alan Browne is passed fit. He will likely play as the ‘running 10’ we saw against Sheffield Wednesday, edging out Brad Potts for that role. Whilst Ledson does the dirty work and Browne presses, Daniel Johnson offers quality and composure on the ball, with the ability to switch roles with Browne and press.
Seani Maguire and Tom Barkhuizen will feature up top, splitting out into the channels whilst trying to cause mayhem in transition – just as they did in the first half at Wednesday.
Davies being out means a homegrown player has to be on the bench, and that will be Mathew Hudson tonight rather than attacker Ethan Walker.
It may seem harsh that Jayden Stockley is out, but this doesn’t really seem like the game for him to start. Pontus Jansson and Ethan Pinnock would no doubt love aerial battles all day, so Neil has gone with an option to try and get around and behind them on the break.
North End won’t have tons of possession this evening, so going with a counter-attacking approach may be the best method; Browne, Maguire and Barkhuizen are well suited to that style.
Paul Huntington returns following suspension, whilst there is creativity to call on from the bench in Scott Sinclair, Billy Bodin and Josh Harrop should we need it.