Nottingham Forest will be looking to get back to winning ways in the Championship against Preston on Saturday.
Martin O’Neill’s men were unlucky not to pick up back-to-back wins for only the second time this season in midweek. They were denied three points at West Brom by a controversial late penalty. It was a bitter pill to swallow.
The Reds are five points off the play-offs, with a number of the sides above them having a game in hand. History suggests that around 75 points is required on average to finish in the top six. This means there’s a lot of work for O’Neill’s side to do if they are to bridge the gap.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Reds. They travel to Deepdale this weekend to face a Preston side that beat Norwich City 3-1 on Wednesday. Despite still being three points behind Forest, they will fancy their chances of putting a run together to push for the play-offs themselves.
Ahead of Saturday’s game, Seat Pitch has taken a look at three players that the Reds will have to deal with if they are to secure the three points.
It’s not too often that a goalkeeper takes the plaudits for a victory. However, Declan Rudd certainly played his part in Preston’s fine win over his former club Norwich on Wednesday. If it wasn’t for his saves from the likes of Teemu Pukki and Onel Hernández, the scoreline could’ve been very different.
Despite this performance, it hasn’t been an easy season for Rudd. At one point, he found himself out of the starting line-up when Alex Neil favoured Chris Maxwell. However, it’s unlikely he’ll lose his place if he continues to play as he did on Wednesday. The Reds will have to have their shooting boots on to get the better of him.
There’s a reason why many Preston fans believe Ben Pearson is the best defensive midfielder in the division. Despite this, those of a Red persuasion would argue that Jack Colback would give him a run for his money. One thing that Pearson does have in his favour is the fact he’s still just 24-years-old. There’s still plenty of time for him to improve his game further.
The one thing the midfielder needs to eradicate from his game though is his short temper. He’s already missed eight games through suspension this season. Many people felt his reputation went against him in midweek as he gave away a penalty in the first half against Norwich.
His manager believes that he has improved this side of his game recently.
Speaking to the Lancashire Post after Preston’s recent win over Bolton, Neil said: “I don’t know if you saw but he pulled out of a tackle in the Bolton game.
“At the time I wanted him to win the tackle but in hindsight I was proud of him.
“There seems to be a little bit sinking in, very slowly but we are getting there.”
Although Preston’s success is largely based around their team ethic, one player that has particularly stood out this season is Alan Browne. The 23-year-old was unlucky not to score against Norwich as he hit the crossbar with a spectacular effort from 35-yards out. He’s Preston’s top scorer having found the back of the net 11 times in the Championship, whilst also picking up four assists.
Neil tends to set his side up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Browne sitting in the No. 10 role. This gives him the freedom to find pockets of space and cause the opposition all sorts of problems. A number of Preston fans on social media have expressed how they think Browne is one of the best players they’ve had in a long time. The Reds will have to keep an eye on him to limit his influence on the game.