It’s not quite squeaky bum time but I’m sure closer to 15:00 tomorrow afternoon, I’ll be twitching like I’ve had a chicken vindaloo the night before. Forest have got a great opportunity to take some of the pressure off in the final three games of the season if we can pick up a win at Deepdale. But knowing Forest, it’s never ever that easy.
Preston’s win in midweek against Sheffield Wednesday was most unwelcome; we can be doing without playing sides that are still thick in the promotion race. Deepdale has barely been a happy hunting ground and Alex Neill’s record against Forest is pretty good.
There wasn’t much between the sides in September last year in a 1-1 draw where Preston looked a decent footballing side; orchestrated by Ben Pearson in their midfield.
I’d expect Forest to line up pretty much as they had done last week against Derby. Preston haven’t been scoring a great deal of goals and it feels like the game will be decided in the midfield area. I’m half expecting Ryan Yates to come in to add a little more steal. Joe Lolley will obviously be a big miss if he isn’t fit but Nuno Da Costa played well in his first start against the sheep.
Forest can’t afford to be as flat as they were midweek but playing away from home has suited us much more than at The City Ground. They’ll be well drilled and hopefully it will be business as usual. I’ve everything crossed that we can produce the goods!
I caught up with Preston fan Alex Harris for his views on things down at Deepdale and what Forest fans should expect tomorrow afternoon.
How have you found the restart behind closed doors as a purist and how would you summarise Preston’s opening games?
The behind closed doors has been strange. Before the lockdown we had been in poor form and the fans were getting on the players backs. I thought without the crowd, this could be a benefit but our form has not improved. The one thing I have noticed; refereeing decisions that maybe wouldn’t be made with a packed crowd behind them are now being made.
In terms of the wider season, how have Preston faired under Alex Neill? From an outsider perspective; he’s done a solid job to keep you in an around the play offs all season.
Neil is a very awkward one to judge… there are certain things he does well and I don’t think any Preston fan would expect a manager to have us any higher up the league than challenging to be in the top six. However, he also comes across as very naive and seems to have his favourites that don’t seem to get dropped. He can be slow to make changes and arrogant about how the game went in his post match views. The thing is; he has done well on a tight budget but there is no getting away from some poor recruitment decisions and reluctance to give other players a chance.
What should Forest fans expect from this Preston side on Saturday in terms of style of play and strengths? Which players would you single out for Forest to keep an eye on?
We never have had the best squad in the league so we make up for it with lots of hard work and pressing play. We have some very quick players and can quite often dominate possession. However, we do like to play long balls out from the back. Our best player without a doubt is Ben Pearson; on his day he is unplayable and is a sure start if available. This season Daniel Johnson has been our talisman and is top scorer. He will try to link play from midfield and make late runs into the box with an eye for a goal.
What have been your biggest problems this season and areas of weakness?
Although we’re not quite as strong defensively as last season, our main problem has been scoring goals. This has been a mixture of not enough chances created and not taking our chances when they’ve come. We can quite often dominate games but not finish them off.
Preston seemed to have had an indifferent start post lockdown but the win at Wednesday looks to have given you a lifeline. Is promotion realistic for you boys?
Honestly, the only reason we still have a shout is the craziness of the Championship and other clubs not extending the gap. We have been poor for a while and after losing to play-off rivals Cardiff and Derby, we looked dead and buried. When the Wednesday goal went in it was heartbreak. However, the fight we showed and the goals we scored have changed everything. Quite simply we need to use that and bring it into Saturday’s game.
Every fan would love to see us make it and I do feel we deserve a place in the play-offs after a few close seasons but realistically, on our tiny budget and lower league signings, The Premier League just seems too far away. Sneaking into the top six would be enough. That’s not to say I don’t want us to go up!
If there was any Forest players you could have at Preston – past and present – who would it be and why?
Lewis Grabban! There are a few players who could improve us but the one thing we are desperate for; is a striker who will take his chances and score goals.
From what I’ve seen Grabban is just that.
What are your hopes and predictions for Saturdays game?
Well we just can’t lose. I really want us to pick up where we finished on Wednesday and if we do, I’m sure we will win and with games running out, we need points. However with some tight fixtures and other teams bound to lose points, a draw isn’t the end of the world. 1-1.
Many thanks to Alex, his views are very much appreciated here at Munich and Madrid.