Millwall head back on the road this weekend having prepared this week for our visit to Preston North End in the Sky Bet Championship.
The Lions are seeking a first away win of the campaign at Deepdale and come off the back of a 2-2 draw at The Den against Hull City. Alex Neil’s hosts have been in mixed form in recent games, but secured a commendable 1-0 away victory at Nottingham Forest last time out.
Preston North End
Founded as a football club in 1880 and hosting matches at their home ground of Deepdale since their inception, Preston North End are one of English football’s historic names. Preston were most famously the only club to complete an entire League season unbeaten in 1888/89, a record which stood until Arsenal achieved the same feat in the Premier League in 2003/04. They also won the FA Cup during this campaign without conceding a goal, the first of two Cups with the second being lifted in 1938. The following year, The Lilywhites won the First Division for a second time, finishing as runners-up for the next three seasons. The club have been promoted to the top flight on five occasions – three of these as champions – and are one of only five English clubs to have won all four League divisions. In more recent years, Preston have spent much of the turn of the century in the second tier, aside from four years in League One between 2011 and 2015. Having last reached the Championship Play-Offs a decade ago, Preston finished just two points outside the top six last season, emerging as dark horses alongside Millwall to come very close to sneaking a place.
Ones to Watch
Paul Huntington (#23) is Preston’s longest-serving player having arrived at Deepdale in 2012. A commanding centre-half, Huntington has been relied on to help steer the club back into the Championship in 2015 – earning the team’s Player of the Year award – and give The Lilywhites a shot at competing for the Play-Offs last year. The 31-year-old has made over 250 appearances in a Preston shirt, following two years at Yeovil Town. A graduate of the Newcastle United academy making numerous Premier League appearances, Huntington then played for Leeds United and Stockport County, and signed a new long-term contract at Deepdale at the start of this season.
Alan Browne (#8) has impressed at Deepdale since arriving in 2014 from hometown club Cork City. The midfielder has netted six goals and claimed three assists in the League this campaign, and his recent displays in the North End white have seen him earn his first Republic of Ireland caps. With nearly five years in the Preston first team, Browne has seemingly been around for a long time but is still just 23 and carries plenty of potential and leadership qualities. Part of the side along with Huntington who returned to the Championship in 2015, Browne won the club’s Player of the Year award last season, playing 44 matches and notching seven goals. The midfield man made his senior Irish debut in 2017.
Tom Barkhuizen (#29) signed for Preston in 2017, after previous spells in League football with nearby clubs Blackpool, Morecambe and Fleetwood Town. The forward has four goals to his name so far this term, following eight with seven assists last season. A committed player and a fan favourite at Deepdale, the 25-year-old joined the club on an initial pre-contract agreement in 2016, and has become a tough opponent to handle for Championship defences. Barkhuizen is also adept in midfield, and carries great positioning ability which has contributed to his rising stock and consistent capability at Championship level.
Louis Moult (#9) has taken his chance as Preston’s primary centre-forward in recent weeks following the news of leading scorer Callum Robinson’s lengthy spell on the sidelines. Moult netted the winner for The Lilywhites in their last outing at Nottingham Forest, and has started the last three League games for Alex Neil’s team. After coming through the academy system at Stoke City, the striker gained experience through a series of loan spells before signing for Northampton Town in 2012. After taking a step into non-league and scoring on a regular basis, Moult earned a big opportunity in the Scottish top flight with Motherwell, whom he joined in 2015. After 50 goals in less than 100 appearances for the club, the 26-year-old was offered the chance to prove himself at Championship level.
In the Dugout
Alex Neil has been in the management game for over five years, despite only turning 37 in the summer. Neil arrived at Deepdale before the start of the 2017/18 campaign, replacing the Sunderland-bound Simon Grayson, and guided North End to an unlikely Play-Off push, finishing in seventh – just ahead of fellow dark horses Millwall. The Scotsman played as a midfielder for the likes of Barnsley, Mansfield Town and later Hamilton Academical – where he spent time as player-manager to kickstart his coaching career. Neil’s first job in England came with Norwich City, whom he steered into the Premier League via the Play-Offs in 2015, causing his stock to rise. Despite relegation the following year, Neil was captured by Preston four months after leaving Carrow Road, and has again shown his capability and promise in the Championship.