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Preston's tactical flexibility on show in Huddersfield win

Preston North End came from behind to claim a third win in the last four games by beating Huddersfield Town 2-1 on Saturday afternoon.

Alex Neil’s men started slowly and fell behind to a Fraizer Campbell goal, but grew into the game gradually and could have been level at the break had Scott Sinclair taken a great chance.

It didn’t matter in the end, as Alan Browne scored a quickfire brace in the second half to give Preston a 2-1 win over the Terriers, who ended the game with 10 men after Naby Sarr had been sent off.

Huddersfield had a real go at North End even with 10 men, and Preston could have even added to the scoreline, with Emil Riis smashing the woodwork late on.

This was another case of Preston showing great resilience to come from behind on the road, just as they did at Brentford earlier this month, but also an example of the tactical flexibility within the squad.

In midweek, Preston lined up in a 4-2-3-1 system at Queens Park Rangers. Andrew Hughes, Jordan Storey, Patrick Bauer and Joe Rafferty made up the back four, with Alan Browne and Ryan Ledson ahead of them.

Brad Potts and Scott Sinclair operated out wide, with Daniel Johnson as the number 10 behind Emil Riis. North End won that game 2-0, and Neil decided to go with the exact same line-up personnel-wise.

Fans may have therefore assumed a 4-2-3-1 again, but that’s not how North End lined up as a pre-match change was made by Neil having seen Huddersfield’s team, which the Preston boss admitted to BBC Radio Lancashire.

Carlos Corberan sprung a surprise on North End by going with a 3-5-2 system, and Neil responded by matching up with a 3-5-2 of his own, essentially going man-to-man.

Preston fans often hate when Neil changes his own tactics to match up the opposition, feeling that he should stop worrying about the opponents and just focus on what Preston can do.

Here though, he got it spot on, even if the first 15 minutes or so were a tough watch. The same 11 players started the game as at QPR, but their showed the flexibility and versatility by slotting into different roles across the pitch.

Rafferty moved from right back to left wing back, Hughes from left back to left centre back, Storey from left centre back to right centre back, Brad Potts from left wing to central midfield, Alan Browne from central midfield to right wing back and Scott Sinclair from right wing to striker alongside Riis.

Patrick Bauer remained as a centre back, but his role was very different; he pushed much higher than Hughes or Storey, meeting Fraizer Campbell from deep whilst also carrying the ball into midfield.

That’s a lot of changes from pre-match to kick off, and the initial discomfort was understandable, but Preston grew and grew in confidence and eventually nullified the hosts whilst going on to win the game.

Having that much versatility in a starting XI is quite incredible, allowing Preston to adjust very quickly to a surprise tactical change from the hosts to match up and come away with the win.

That approach may frustrate some, but Neil got this one right, and the versatility of the Preston squad should be praised having won two away games on the bounce playing two completely different systems, all without star players Ben Davies and Ben Pearson.

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