Preston North End vs. Forest preview..

Ah, a trip to Deepdale – where the pies apparently are lovely, so I’m looking forward to that at least (if Jon Parkin and Neil Mellor are advocates, they’re clearly hard to resist!).  Billy takes his new charges to his old club and will be keen to get Forest’s away results back on the rails.  We’ve had a dreadful run of away results, and any furtherance of this will start to damage our automatic promotion credentials.

Our hosts are unbeaten in their last three games – and will still harbour a possibly optimistic hope of putting together a run to find themselves in the playoffs.  They’re eight points adrift at the moment.  Earlier in the season we despatched the Lilywhites 3-0 at home, with their former skipper Paul McKenna opening the scoring with a lovely long range goal, Adebola and McGugan scoring the remaining two goals.

Certainly the first part of that won’t be repeated – McKenna is unavailable due to his knee injury, but aside from this not insignificant selection poser, the Reds are in good shape – with Robbie Earnshaw and former Preston-defender Kelvin Wilson both likely to return to the squad after missing the Swansea match with an achilles niggle and ankle injury respectively.  So that’s good news.

The most significant injury news for our hosts is the availability or otherwise of Danny Welbeck, the Manchester United loanee.  Folks had commented it might be nepotism driving Sir Alex to furnish his son with such a talented loanee, but let’s not forget that Preston have a history of giving United’s youngsters game time – none other than David Beckham cut his teeth there for a month!

On the official Forest site their preview speaks of Darren Ferguson’s confidence in Welbeck being available – but subsequent news stories suggest the youngster has had some kind of reaction to his injury which will rule him out.  Whilst that’s unfortunate for the lad himself, that’s not bad news from our point of view – by all accounts he’s been a fine addition to their squad.  That’s not to say he’s all they have to offer.

The Forest defence can expect a physical battle with Neil Mellor up front, and possibly Jon ‘Beast’ Parkin – surely the heaviest forward line combination since Dean Windass and, well, anyone really!  Despite that, both know where the net is so the Reds will need to stay sharp at the back, as well as getting sharp up front on the road.  Boy could we do with resurrecting our away form, particularly with Tuesday’s trip to Barnsley following quickly.

I’m not sure whether I expect to see Billy go for the ‘attack formation’ we usually see at home – with Earnie available after sitting out the home game last week it might make him change his emphasis – but then that would leave us with the Moose (or maybe Cohen if Perch is put back in at left back, or maybe McGugan) to hold midfield with the more mercurial Majewski alongside them.  So he might be tempted to go with a safer midfield and keep Earnie on the bench.

Tough call, I’m glad I don’t have to make it!  I am looking forward to the pies, though, and possibly a wander around the National Football Museum if I can wend my way up to Lancashire in time.