Behind Enemy Lines: Preston North End

MILLWALL are still searching for their first away win since April when they travel to Deepdale this weekend.

Manager Neil Harris will hope to build on a solid performance at Bristol City two weeks ago that saw the Lions earn a point against Lee Johnson’s side.

Both matches against North End ended in draws last season – a 0-0 at Deepdale followed up by a 1-1 draw at The Den, Aiden O’Brien netting in early January.

Lucas Ball spoke to Lilywhites fan Rob Woodling this week.

Twitter: @WoodlingRob

Why do you support Preston?

While this isn’t particularly exciting, I support Preston because they are my Dad’s favourite team and therefore the team I first watched.

What’s been your favourite season following the Lilywhites?

The Championship play-off seasons were good but I was a lot younger so didn’t go to many games.

However, it can only really be the season where we were promoted from League One as play-off winners in 2015, culminating in a 4-0 thrashing of Swindon at Wembley.

How about the worst?

Has to be the 2012-13 season when we struggled under Graham Westley in League One. Absolutely dire.

Is Alex Neil the right man for the job still?

Definitely, we have only lost once in 11 games despite having several key players injured.

The football is much better than it was with Simon Grayson and his mentality is loved by the fans.

Similar to Millwall, Preston struggled at the start of the campaign after a very encouraging 2017-18 season. Neil’s side have since gone on a good run and moved up the table, but what do you think was behind the struggle and subsequent resurgence?

The struggle, I personally thought, was down to Neil not knowing his best side, and constantly changing the defence.

Also, there were several injuries but not nearly as many as now so that has to be less of a reason for the poor start.

The resurgence must be mainly attributed to Neil getting us back to basics and simply finding out his best side. The consistency has allowed the players to find form.

Both fixtures ended in a draw last season, with one occurring during Millwall’s unbeaten run – why do you think the Lions have dropped off this campaign?

I can’t say I follow Milwall too closely. But for me it’s probably their home record. Last season it was one of the best in the division but this year is worse than ours, which is mediocre.

Furthermore, while on their staggering run last season Millwall were bound to have had a bit of luck going their way. This season they appear to have no luck.

It seems to have gone from one extreme to another.

Who will be the most important player for Preston on Saturday and who from Millwall do you fear?

Callum Robinson unfortunately will not be one of the most important players on the pitch, as he is out for three months and has missed our last three games.

Our most important player will probably be Louis Moult. We almost have no attacking players fit, so we will be relying on him to nick the winner for us.

Lee Gregory will no doubt be a handful, and I would suggest he will be the most dangerous Millwall player. Jed Wallace is a very creative player, and Steve Morison is always a handful. We struggle against players of the Morison/Gregory ilk.

Ben Pearson is probably the best holding midfielder in the league but has missed our last two games. I think against the Lions, though, it will be our attacking players who we need to be on form.

Lukas Nmecha will hopefully continue on from a decent performance against Forest.

What are your thoughts on Harris?

Neil Harris is a great manager.

Last season many tipped Millwall to go down, but he managed to almost have them in the play-offs.

When he was appointed Millwall were going nowhere. He has turned them into a good Championship side. In my opinion, I also think he will steer them away from the relegation zone.

If you could sign one of his players, who would it be and why?

I would probably sign Jake Cooper, as we need a solid centre-half alongside our best centre-half Ben Davies.

Paul Huntington hasn’t been at his best, though he is improving, and he is also getting older. It would definitely be Cooper.

What’s your predicted formation and line-up for Neil’s side?

Our line-up will most likely be:

Rudd; Clarke, Huntington, Davies, Hughes; Pearson (if fit), Johnson (if fit); Nmecha, Browne, Barkhuizen; Moult.

In that squad we have Clarke and Nmecha out of position, due to seven first team injuries.

Will you be at Deepdale on Saturday?

I am not actually sure if I will be at Deepdale on Saturday – I am trying to get the boss to let me finish early.

Finally, a score prediction?

Preston 2-1 Millwall.

I am by no means certain of that score-line as we have one winger in the side who is fit, and seven first-team injuries which will no doubt catch up with us eventually.

However, I think we will win, just. Millwall have been poor away from The Den this season and we are on a great run. We will rely heavily on Moult/Barkhuizen to nick a goal for us and we will have to defend well as we won’t score many.

Graphic: @ShedCreative