Championship Friday – Preston North End v Derby County

For the first time in a couple of weeks, Championship Friday isn’t a matchup of clubs near the top of the table, though the host this week probably had higher hopes for the season than how it has played out this far.

Preston North End, who finished last season two points out of the playoffs, have not done nearly that well this season. Nevertheless, there is still some time left in the season for the club to recover, and tonight’s match against Derby County would be a good place to start.

Let’s take a look at the clubs:

The Records

Preston North End has spent some time at the bottom of the table this season, though it has been 4 1/2 months since they bottomed out. After a brief three-match unbeaten stretch, however, they are in 16th place, with a 9-9-11 record (36 points), two points behind Stoke City and 10 points behind Derby County for the last playoff spot.

A 13-7-8 record (46 points) has permitted Derby County to hold onto a playoff spot for most of the season, reaching 4th in the league as recently as 22 December. After losing to Fulham in last season’s promotion playoff, the Rams were expected to be close to the top of the table yet again, though they would have probably preferred to be closer to the top of the playoff race than at the bottom. As such, they are only five points behind third place Sheffield United (with one fewer match played) and eight points behind Norwich City for second (again, with one fewer match played).

The Previous Match-Up

These clubs met previously way back in August, with the Rams coming away victorious at Pride Park Stadium. For Preston North End, it moved them to 1-1-3 early in the season and started them down toward the bottom of the table, while Derby County had recovered after two early season losses to climb back into playoff position.

Preston’s struggles in Derby continued in that early match – they have not won a match in Derby since September of 2002, and the clubs have shared a league in 12 of those 17 seasons. Teenager Mason Mount – on loan from Chelsea – opened the scoring for the Rams in the 38th minute, a lead that Derby County never lost. Later, with less than 15 minutes left in the match, and after some stellar defense on both sides, Mount placed a corner kick directly on Richard Keogh’s head, sealing the victory for the Rams.

Home and Away Results

Preston North End is hoping that hosting this one will help, and they have accumulated most of their points this season at Deepdale, with a so-so 5-6-3 record overall at home. They’ve also scored more (30 vs 16) and surrendered less (22 vs 23) than on the road (as would be expected). However, they’ve won only one of their past five matches at home (1-2-2), and that victory came against Millwall nearly six weeks ago.

Derby County has struggled on the road relative to their home performance, with a 6-2-6 record away from Pride Park. They also have surrendered as many goals as they’ve scored on the road, meaning that the entirety of their +5 goal differential  has come at home. In their past five road matches, they are an okay 2-0-3, but with two of those losses coming to clubs above them in the league table (Sheffield United and Leeds United). One of those wins was also against Norwich City, so it hasn’t all been terrible.

Scorers and Defense, Oh My!

Both clubs’ leading scorers have scored 10 goals on the season. For Preston, foward Alan Browne leads the club, while winger Harry Wilson leads the Rams. The secondary scorer for each club is not that far behind the leaders either, with Jack Marriott netting seven goals for the Rams and Callum Robinson second on Preston with eight goals. Overall, Preston has scored more goals on the season, but it’s not a terribly big gap (45 vs 40).

Defensively, neither team is a standout. The Rams have surrendered 35 goals on the season (1.25 per match), while Preston has surrendered 45 (1.55 per match), albeit in one more match. Scott Carson has manned the net for all but one match this season, and has five clean sheets on the season (18.5%), including in that first matchup between the clubs. Declan Rudd has been the primary keeper for Preston, especially once Chris Maxwell went out on loan in January, and has four clean sheets of his own in 21 matches (19.0%).

How I See It

Preston North End and Derby County have met 105 times since 1888, with an overall record between the clubs of 43-19-43. Thirty one of those victories for the Lilywhites have come at Deepdale, but I don’t think that will help them in this one.

In the three seasons prior to this (when both clubs were in the Championship together), Preston has lost all three home matches to Derby County, which helps to explain why Derby County has consistently finished on top of Preston at the end of the season:

  • 2017-18 – Derby County 6th; Preston North End 7th
  • 2016-17 – Derby County 9th; Preston North End 11th
  • 2015-16 – Derby County 5th; Preston North End 11th

I’m giving this one to the Rams as well, though it would be nice for the Lilywhites to come through in this one and start a march back up the table.

My prediction: Preston North End 1-2 Derby County
Actual result: Preston North End 0-0 Derby County

Until next time…

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