- Preston North End visit King Power Stadium on Wednesday (7:45pm kick-off)
- Ryan Lowe has guided the Lilywhites to third in the Sky Bet Championship
- The Lancashire club have won six of their opening nine matches
- George Hodgson from the Lancashire Post has assessed their start to the season
Wednesday’s 7:45pm kick-off pits two of the Sky Bet Championship’s pace setters together, with Leicester City welcoming third-place Preston to King Power Stadium.
While the Foxes’ aims for 2023/24 have been clear from the outset, it has been a pleasant surprise for North End fans to find themselves in the upper echelons of the second-tier table at this stage. They want to stay there now.
“It’s been fantastic for Preston,” the journalist explained. “Heading into the season, the Championship line-up looked extremely tough with Leicester, Leeds and Southampton coming down and Ipswich coming up, who have been good. To be third after nine games is remarkable really.
Preston North End
Aiming to bounce back from Saturday’s defeat.
“After a couple of mid-table finishes under Ryan Lowe so far, a lot of people would have taken that again, but with six wins now they’ve just been getting over the line in games and been brilliant in taking chances and being tight at the back.”
The Lilywhites suffered their first defeat of the league campaign at the weekend, losing 4-0 at home to West Bromwich Albion, a shock result following six wins from eight games. Hodgson believes it could galvanise the group instead of working against them.
“Hopefully last Saturday was a blip and an anomaly,” he continued. “It’s never ideal. Leicester is probably the toughest game on paper for Preston this year when you look at the team, but I hope it will spark a real determination to prove that was a one off, just a bump in the road, and they embrace this big night going to a relegated team.
“They’re a good group, an honest group, and there’s a real team spirit about them. They’ve taken a lot of inspiration from Luton last season, being hard to beat with a real togetherness about the group and competing. They’ll be hurting after Saturday so it should spur them on rather than knocking confidence.”
This month is going to be massive. They’ve got Leicester, Ipswich, Millwall, Southampton and Hull, so I think you’ll know a lot about them after those.George Hodgson Lancashire Post Reporter
Defensive capabilities are the foundations of Lowe’s side, while fresh attacking talents have entered the fray to give the Deepdale outfit more cause for optimism as the season progresses.
Hodgson explained: “You’ve always regarded Preston as having a real strong defence. There’s no real standout individuals. The back three of Jordan Storey, Liam Lindsay and Andrew Hughes doesn’t change too much. They know each other and Freddie Woodman has been excellent over the last year. He’s massive between the sticks.
“That’s been a real strength but last year they didn’t have the goals to go with it and I think there were five goalless draws in the first seven games – it wasn’t great to watch. But they’ve added a few in the summer and they’ve been scoring goals.
“Liam Miller has looked good since he’s come in on loan from Basel, the former Liverpool forward who has been playing on the left. He’s provided a spark with direct dribbling and ability.
“Will Keane, the top scorer, is back fit. He was a really smart pick-up on a free and does all aspects of the game quite nicely up there. It’s a big boost to have him back. Ben Whiteman could come back into the team for this one and he’s a really good ball-playing midfielder.”
Manager Ryan Lowe is 'ambitious' in his aims for the club.
Upcoming fixtures, meanwhile, present a real test of Preston’s mettle, facing the current top two and several other sides who are expecting to compete for promotion.
“The manager is really ambitious,” the reporter added. “He wants to manage in the Premier League one day. You’ve got to be realistic, but I think you’d be extremely disappointed if Preston ended up in the bottom half now. Play-offs is probably still a tough ask, but this month is going to be massive. They’ve got Leicester, Ipswich, Millwall, Southampton and Hull, so I think you’ll know a lot about them after those.
“They’ve played some good teams so far. Leicester and Ipswich away in four days, it doesn’t get much tougher than that. And then Millwall are always tough to beat, Southampton have just had a good win over Leeds and Hull are going well. What a month to go and try and make a statement to the rest of the league.”
A live video stream of this match is available in the UK and around the world on Foxes Hub. Click HERE to get your Game Pass.
All times BST.
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