Blades prove too sharp for Preston

Even though Preston slipped to a 2-1 defeat at Bramall Lane, it would be fair to say that Preston gave their best performance since Westley took charge as manager just over a month ago. At a place where only two teams have won all seaon, we were only seven minutes from escaping with what would have been a very valuable point. We even went 1-0 up after Thorsten Stuckmann saved Ched Evans’ weak penalty and Graham Cummins scored his first goal for the club with a magnificent header in the 38th minute to spark mad scenes in the away end. However Evans was to make amends by first equalising just before half time and then settling the contest with a volley with time running out.

It was also a very different Preston team than what people have been used to seeing over the years. Many a time I have bemoaned how players haven’t got stuck in and have let players run at us, but at Sheffield United, the home of one of the most attacking teams in the league and we stopped them from playing. Even Adam Barton, someone who has rarely made a challenge in his entire career, was disrupting play and causing United problems. From a Preston perspective it was great to see our team standing up to the opposition and not letting them walk all over us. It is also ironic how Sheffield United fans were quick to lambast Preston for the way we played and the Mirror reported that our style of football was more suited to rugby league than it was to football

Personally I take this criticism with a pinch of salt; people say now that they lost a lot of respect for us since Westley took over and turned us into a very physical team who aren’t afraid to get in the faces of the opposition (and the ref in some cases). But it was being the ‘nice’ guys that were one of the reasons why we were relegated. Too often teams just walked all over us and took an easy 3 points which is probably why fans liked us because they saw us as an easy 3 points. It is no coincidence that Davies’ play off teams also had a similar physical side to what Westley is instilling in the players at the moment and if Westley had similar success to Davies then I will be very happy. If we can keep on improving between now and the end of the season then perhaps the play offs aren’t out of reach just yet, but how ironic that it is Westley’s former club Stevenage who currently hold 6th place. What the situation will be when Westley returns to Stevenage on Easter Monday in 12 games time remains to be seen and I’m sure Westley himself will be aware of the irony if Preston can indeed pip Stevenage to the final play off spot before the end of the season.

By Preston North End blogger Sean Marshall. You can read more of his work on his personal blog.