PNE Preview - Away, April 3rd
FOLLOWING the massive disappointment of the 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace on Tuesday, Watford travel up to Lancashire to take on Darren Ferguson`s Preston North End side.
The Lilywhites started the season well enough but a horrific slide down the league, reminiscent of the Hornet`s own plight saw former Everton No.2 Alan Irvine sacked before former Peterborough manager Fergie Jnr. took control in the New Year.
Having been appointed just six days into the January Transfer Window, Ferguson wasted no time in bringing in some of his own faces and also shipping out some of those who weren`t in his plans. Amongst those were centre halves Neill Collins (to Leeds Utd) and Eddie Nolan (to Sheffield Wednesday). Experienced forward Stephen Elliott also left on loan to join Paul Lambert`s promotion-chasing Norwich City until the end of the campaign.
With his Dad at the end of the phone at Manchester United it was inevitable that a couple of United`s youngsters would wend their way over to Deepdale and unsurprisingly, two did. Midfielder Matthew James joined just three days after Ferguson whilst striker Danny Welbeck was also pinched until the end of the campaign. Centre half Elliott Ward, brother of former Hornet Darren, made the switch temporarily from Coventry City whilst full-back-cum-winger Tom Williams also arrived having being loaned to Q.P.R earlier in the season.
The only permanent January signings came in the shape of former Posh midfielder, Paul Coutts who cost around 600k, and former Blackburn and Sheffield United winger, Keith Treacy.
North End`s dangerman on Saturday will undoubtedly be tricky left-winger, Ross Wallace. Brought to England by former Sunderland manager Roy Keane, Wallace started out at Celtic making 18 league starts in four years at Parkhead. 500k brought the 25 year-old to the North East before he fell foul of Keane`s revolving door policy and ended up joining Preston on loan. It was his loan move to Preston that brought about a real impressive consistency which eventually resulted in then manager Alan Irvine making the deal permanent for half a million. A set-piece specialist, Wallace has scored eleven goals in 70 league starts for the club but has never scored in a Cup clash.
Grizzly targetman Jon Parkin will be the man Wallace will be looking to supply and this has been a productive season for the 29 year-old with 12 goals and a total of 20 in just 50 starts with Preston. For a targetman the 13stone forward has a decent scoring record in the Football League. It was his 30 goals in 63 league starts at Macclesfield that prompted Hull City to bring him to the Championship where he scored eleven in forty before a loan move to Stoke brought him to the Premier League, albeit briefly, but a 5 in 9 record, plus 25 more sub appearances suggests he wasn`t that high up the pecking order. A powerful forward, Parkin is more than adept at bringing others into play and holding the ball up, though he has been known to show the odd deft touch.
Coutts and Williams are welcomed back following injury but experienced midfielder Barry Nicholson has a broken leg and Paul Parry has tendonitis.
With Martin Taylor injured in midweek Lee Hodson looks set to come in at right back unless Taylor recovers in time, whilst Ryan Noble is apparently in line for a start according to The London Evening Standard presumably at the expense of Heidar Helguson, although goalscoring sub Danny Graham may have something to say about that!
Preston North End: Neil Mellor 28 League Starts + 7 Sub Apps (9 League Goals)
Watford: Tom Cleverley 31 + 0 (11)
Preston North End: WDLLD
Likely Preston North End XI
Jones Ward St. Ledger Davidson (c)
Carter Chaplow James Wallace
Hodson Mariappa DeMerit Doyley
Cowie Lansbury Eustace Cleverley