It’s fair to say this has been a better start to the campaign than last season.

Saturday’s 3-3 draw with Bristol City means Preston have taken 17 points from the first nine games. Five wins, two draws and two defeats in that time have seen North End take an early spot in the top six.

Just two points off top spot, North End have been impressive so far this term. There has been a fair share of luck too, with comical mistakes and a number of penalties aiding Alex Neil’s side, but you have to capitalise on those opportunities.

Now six league games unbeaten, North End will hope to carry that on against Middlesbrough on Tuesday. Unsurprisingly, much has been made on the start to the season after last term’s horror start.

Preston North End’s Sean Maguire celebrates scoring against Birmingham City. (Photo by Mick Walker – CameraSport via Getty Images)

At this stage of last season, Preston had just lost 3-2 at home to West Bromwich Albion. From 10 games, Preston had taken just five points, and were sitting bottom of the Championship table.

Preston had leaked 21 goals, lost seven times and looked pretty hopeless. North End stuck with Neil, and he managed to turn the situation around, but what a difference now.

Preston are 12 points better off having played a game fewer than this stage last term. Additionally, the defence has been a little tighter, conceding 10 goals so far this term.

Preston North End players (from left) Paul Huntington, Ben Davies and Ryan Ledson look utterly dejected against West Bromwich Albion. (Photo by Rich Linley – CameraSport via Getty Images)

Now, Neil has reflected on that big difference in output. The Scot feels he has more confidence in his side than this time last season, believing he’s spotted more experience in his players after having a year to develop.

North End were certainly young last season, and adding Patrick Bauer has really helped too. Neil didn’t want to criticise those that were at Deepdale last season – such as Lukas Nmecha, Graham Burke and Brandon Barker – but feels better off this term.