Preston and Cardiff held ante-post aspirations for a challenge at the Championship top-six but neither have started strongly. Mark O'Haire previews their Sunday showdown...
"Under Neil Harris’ watch, the Welsh capital club have picked up W9-D4-L4 from 17 away days at Championship level"
Preston v Cardiff
Sunday October 18, 12:00
Preston stun Bees
Scott Sinclair's quick-fire double inspired a sensational Preston second-half fightback to sink Brentford in their most recent outing. North End appeared down and out at the Brentford Community Stadium, trailing 2-0 at the interval, but Sinclair's salvo, plus further strikes from Brad Potts and Sean Maguire gave the Lilywhites a remarkable and unexpected 4-2 success.
PNE had found the net just three times in their opening six games, but stunned the Bees with four goals in 18 second-half minutes to clinch their first Championship victory of the new campaign. Preston enjoyed more possession and also won the shots on-target count with a result and second-half performance that thrilled demanding boss Alex Neil.
Neil said, "The lads gave it everything they've got, they showed real bravery in the second half and I thought we were well worth the win." The North End supremo is now hoping to have Alan Browne available after the Irish midfielder was caught up in a bizarre COVID-related week for the Republic. Otherwise, Preston aren't far off being at full-strength.
Cardiff held at Ewood Park
Cardiff were held to a goalless stalemate against Blackburn in their most recent Championship encounter. The Bluebirds concluded the contest with 10 men following Lee Tomlin's petulant red card 20 minutes from time but were never put in grave danger by Rovers who dominated possession but did little with it in tricky conditions at Ewood Park.
Both sides struggled to play with much fluency in the torrential rain; Cardiff were the first to threaten with Junior Hoilett going close, whilst City stopper Alex Smithies twice denied Blackburn's leading goalscorer Adam Armstrong. With chances at a premium, the stoic Bluebirds sat back in the dying embers as they defended their share of the spoils.
Cardiff manager Neil Harris was critical of the referee's display but reserved plenty of praise for his players, saying: "In the circumstances, playing the last 20 minutes with 10 men, a clean sheet was a resilient point. I'm really proud of the players for their backs-to-the-wall bit of defending at the end." Summer signing Kieffer Moore is expected to be involved here.
Close contest forecast
Cardiff collected four points from match-ups with Preston last season, including a 3-1 success at Deepdale as recently as late June. However, longer-term meetings between the pair have always been closely contested with the North End returning W5-D3-L6 in 14 showdowns across all venues going back to the 2008/09 season.
Preston 11/82.34 have failed to fire at Deepdale this term. The Lilywhites have been beaten 1-0 by both Swansea and Stoke as hosts, as well as underwhelming in the Carabao Cup here. The hosts managed just W3-D4-L6 when entertaining top-14 finishers last season and despite an impressive display in their last outing, have fallen short on expectations in 2020.
Cardiff 9/43.25 have also saved their best performances for the road. The Bluebirds' four points have all arrived on their travels and under Neil Harris' watch, the Welsh capital club have picked up W9-D4-L4 from 17 away days at Championship level; the visitors have kept their sheets clean in seven of those showdowns, only failing to score themselves in three.
Only three of the past 14 head-to-heads between Preston and Cardiff have seen Both Teams To Score (4/5) backers profit and it's been a case of feast or famine for North End goal-hunters in the opening weeks of the new season. Neither league game at Deepdale has excited or entertained with both fixtures featuring no more than a solitary strike.
Three of Cardiff's first four Championship outings have produced Under 2.5 Goals (13/20) and a repeat wouldn't be a huge surprise considering the lack of open play goalmouth action provided by the pair on show this Sunday. With that in mind I'm happy to keep the Bluebirds onside in the Double Chance market alongside Under 3.5 Goals at 1.95.
Mark's 2020/21 Profit/Loss
Staked: 12.00 pts
Returned: 11.88 pts
P/L: -0.12 pts