Preview: Preston North End

How We’re Doing

With 10 minutes to go on Sunday we were doing amazingly well. For the first time since the Cup replay against Hartlepool we were set to win a game that we’d scored first in. With a patched up side featuring Moussa and Jordan Clarke as emergency centre-forwards we were doing something we hadn’t really done this season, win whilst playing poorly. However two sloppy goals very late on cost us all three points and a chance to close in on the play-offs.

Worse news was to come in the aftermath of the game in that our top scorer Leon Clarke had decided he wanted to go. It almost always seems that at Coventry we can never have success, either the team blows whatever chance they are given or we are forced to sell our best players. Or more often than not, as in this instance, both happens to us.

We head into this Preston fixture now with disquiet in the camp as Leon Clarke remains at the club for the time being. The obvious message to take from Leon’s absence last Sunday was that he chose not to play in order to avoid risking injury. Steven Pressley has been vocal in his criticism for Clarke’s attitude, it began with his post game comment on his injury where he replied ‘you’ll have to ask Leon’. Pressley’s comments recently have been stronger, focusing on the negative impact that Clarke may be having on his teammates at the moment. Overall Pressley seems resigned to losing him.

However the plot thickens in that Wolves’s opening offer has been insultingly low, rumoured to be only £350k, with Coventry immediately rejecting the bid. Wolves fans are overall unenthusiastic with the potential return of Clarke to their ranks seeing as lazy and not good enough for them in the long-term. Additionally Wolves have seemed to have cooled their interest and are now pursuing Martyn Waghorn of Leicester. Clarke’s other options are dwindling, Brighton were interested but seem likely now to sign Lewis Grabban instead, that leaves Barnsley as the only alternative that have been openly named and they would be unlikely to afford the 7 figure fee that the club are demanding. Leon may well stay, and with the revenue from the Arsenal cup tie in mind, we are in a position of strength to reject low offers and maybe even offer him an improved deal.

Leon Clarke seems likely to start tomorrow’s game against Preston with no new attacking reinforcements. One signing has been made, that of Danny Seaborne from Yeovil, although the partnership of Willis and Webster may be maintained given the form they’ve shown in central defence. The main selection dilemma will be over who partners Leon on Saturday, Moussa was all but named in Pressley’s post-game criticism of a ‘certain individual’ and could be dropped but then the alternatives would be Slager and Daniels who both don’t look quite there yet.

Last Time We Met

The last time we played Preston we scored 4, however this being Coventry City circa 13/14 that of course meant we only drew against them. We really should have won that match after recovering from a poor first 30 minutes and falling 2 behind. However after taking the lead we rested on our laurels and got complacent in possession and nearly lost the game, with a late Mathieu Manset goal sparing our blushes.

Although the Lilywhites are considered a ‘bogey’ team for us, we’re undefeated against them since we were relegated to this league. Last season’s meetings were tremendously ill-tempered as we developed something of a rivalry with our friends from Lancashire. It will be fascinating to see whether this sense of rivalry is maintained in the forthcoming encounter.

How They’re Doing?

They’re the Bayer Leverkusen/Valencia (of 2010-12) of the division, not in any real danger of winning the title but content to be the ‘best of the rest’ so to speak. Simon Grayson has transformed Preston from a lower mid-table League One side to one that seems to have already secured a play-off spot in January. They’re a physical, robust side full of experienced pros but still play some pretty nice stuff when given the chance. Their recent FA Cup win over Ipswich shows their pedigree as a side waiting for promotion, either this season or next.

Their marquee signing Kevin Davies hasn’t been amongst the goals this season but he’s been a key player for them in attack. His intelligent link-up play, coupled with his less subtle employment of a well-placed elbow, enables the team to build attacks and make the opposing defenders sweat. In a division with a large number of inexperienced players his ability to physically upset opposition defenders and his career of bending the rules in a careful manner to exert his presence has been the difference between wins and draws this season for Preston.

Their man in form is former Carlisle and Blackburn striker Joe Garner. Since moving to Nottingham Forest and then Watford, Garner failed to make much impression on Championship football. After falling into reserve team football, several loan spells saw Garner fail to make much of an impression. As a cheap signing in the late days of Graham Westley’s ill-fated reign at Deepdale he was a decent but not outstanding choice. However he has now scored 11 goals in his past 11 games and seems to be fulfilling the promise he showed at Carlisle. A nippy striker who, on his day, has a habit of being in the right place at the right time, he’ll be a real threat to a Coventry defence otherwise occupied by the previously mentioned Kevin Davies.

Elsewhere in their team they have the danger wide-man of Chris Humphrey, a pacey winger who’s been a consistent source of attacking threat down the right. Another man to watch out for is defensive midfielder John Welsh, in fitting with Preston’s image as a physical and defensive side Welsh is someone who makes his presence known on the game. He may make it difficult for us to operate a passing game that penetrates through the centre of the pitch.


Jordan Clarke’s appearance in attack on Sunday highlighted our lack of attacking options in the side. If it wasn’t bad enough not having the penetration of Callum Wilson’s pace in the side, an unmotivated Leon Clarke may make attacking that one bit harder against tough opposition tomorrow. This is a time to feel gloomy as a Coventry fan once again, we saw in games against Tranmere and Rotherham in November what we’re like as a team with no attacking threat. This might not be easy to watch on Saturday in front of a baying crowd at Deepdale.

Let’s keep this respectable and at a 2-0 scoreline to the home side.

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