The Local Lowdown: Preston North End


We asked opposition expert George Hodgson, Preston North End reporter for the Lancashire Post, to preview Tuesday night's game from the visitors’ point of view...

With four games to go, how would you rate Preston’s season so far?

PNE can take some confidence from the fact they stayed in and around the play-off mix for so long. The Lilywhites improved in 2024, but will ultimately rue their rather dismal run of form between October and December. It's always the challenge for North End, to try and go that one step further and unfortunately they have just come up short once again.

Preston exceeded all expectations in the first few games of the campaign, climbing to the top of the league. Things then went really downhill for North End and the pressure was cranked up on manager Ryan Lowe, particularly over the festive period. Thankfully, PNE managed to recover and kick on again in the new year.

Preston boss Ryan Lowe

The Lilywhites were five points behind sixth-placed Norwich with a game in hand ahead of the weekend fixtures. What’s the run-in like, and how do you rate Preston’s play-off prospects?

Yeah, PNE's race looks run now, sadly. They picked up a big win over Huddersfield Town last Tuesday night, to set up the crunch match with the Canaries. Preston knew, realistically, they needed to win that game to stand a chance and Gabriel Sara landed the 86th minute sucker-punch at Deepdale.

Injury blows have been suffered in recent weeks and North End were dealt another last weekend, with recent key man, Ali McCann, ruled out.

North End will reflect on plenty of other moments and results during the season, with the narrow defeat to an experienced Norwich team – full of quality – not where it was lost. Preston's run-in was pretty tough anyway, in truth, with Leicester at home and trips to West Brom and of course, St Mary's.

Preston's play-off aspirations were dealt a setback by Saturday's home defeat to Norwich

This is Ryan Lowe’s second full season in the job. What do the fans make of the work he’s doing?

He's certainly had an up and down time in the hot seat and I'm sure there has been lots and lots of learning along the way. North End have never dropped down towards the wrong end of the table under Lowe, just always stayed in and around that mid-to-upper part of it.

PNE are on course for an improved season, in terms of points – and potentially one of their highest tallies since returning to the Championship, nine years ago. Lowe tries to engage the supporters and is a self-confessed 'people pleaser' – though he has rubbed fans up the wrong way, at times, in the media.

On the whole, it's been a steady two-and-a-half years – full of highs and lows. Recruitment has been mostly positive under the Liverpudlian and this summer will be important, as Lowe and PNE aim to make serious strides in what will be his third full season.

What’s this season’s success been built on?

Plenty of the summer signings have played a key role over the course of it, with Will Keane top scorer and Duane Holmes, Mads Frokjaer, Milutin Osmajic and Liam Millar boosting the attack further.

North End will, at times, succumb to superior quality and make mistakes like most teams. But you can often guarantee you will see aggression, energy and absolute commitment in their performance as a unit.

The whole squad has been called upon and different players have stepped up at key times. As mentioned, that fantastic start of 20 points from the first eight games was a big boost and there was a clear determination to get back on track after that horrible autumn wobble.

13-goal striker Will Keane is Preston's top scorer this season

Who have been the standout players, both over the course of the campaign and in recent weeks?

Since returning from a shocking injury in late December, Emil Riis has been excellent up front and looked the real deal. His return alone seemed to give the whole club a lift. Will Keane has been a really savvy pick-up, netting the goals he has done but also linking play impressively all season. Loan man Liam Millar has often been a spark, while Liam Lindsay has been a consistent, battling presence in the heart of defence. Mads Frokjaer is a class act in midfield, on his day.

How do you see tonight’s game going?

North End probably know their season is done now, in terms of a play-off push. But they must stay professional – and while there's still a chance mathematically, PNE have to keep going and give it everything they've got.

Given the position Southampton are in, Ryan Lowe's side will know they are in for an extremely tough game. It was a fantastic match at Deepdale earlier in the season, and a repeat of that would make for a great watch. Hopefully no flames are in sight...

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