Soccer AM/MW - the home of lively and humorous discussion from the Football and Non Leagues

Friday, March 12, 2010

Preston vs. Forest: Top Trumps

With the second Soccer AM/MW derby of the season between Preston and Forest taking place this weekend, as a completely scientific way of determining the outcome of the contest, Lakes and Turls gear up for a game of Top Trumps.

(Nobes kindly volunteered to be the judge.)


Andy Lonergan (PNE)

Andy Longeran is in fine, fine form at the moment. Comically nicknamed "Teflonergan" by a few fans - thanks to his slippery fingers - he's been through the mill a bit.

At heart he is still the same wonderful shot-stopper Arsenal and a whole host of top-flight clubs have been interested in several times over the past few years though.

Lee Camp is a great keeper, too, and perhaps slightly better rounded than Longeran - whose excellence lies in shot stopping and that alone.

But shot stopping to Lonergan's level really does win you games. Many of Camp's clean sheets can be put down to a solid Forest defence. The same can't be said of Lonergan's.

Lee Camp

Here is a keeper who has had a massive say in how Forest have performed this season.

On countless occasions, Camp has pulled off impressive saves to either keep Forest in the game or keep hold of a lead.

I remember a few months it was suggested he was pushing for an England call-up.

Now, this may seem a bit of nonsense to a man with a rudimentary knowledge of football but it was proof that he had been performing superbly.

Great shot-stopper, excellent decision making, and looks stylish in a turtle neck.

These are two of the top keepers in the Championship, and both are key to their respective sides.

As confidence plays such an important part in a keeper's game, I would just give the edge to Camp as he is playing behind a very effective defensive unit at Forest this term.

They are keeping plenty of clean sheets - especially at home - and he has conceded fewer than Lonergan. However, the PNE stopper may well be crucial if Preston are to win this one.


Sean St Ledger (PNE)

Sean St. Ledger is a fantastic player. He really is something special. As a defender, he's solid, reliable, and committed.

But he's more than that.

Anyone who's watched him play will have seen his intrepid runs from the back.

He's a true footballing defender, and as good on the ball as some of the best midfielders in the division.

You're just as likely to see him scoring a half-volley as you are to see him making a committed, last-ditch tackle.

He's a true box-to-box player, and you don't often get that in centre backs.

Wes Morgan

I've never been a fan of The Major Oak. He looks good at times but I always felt he was prone to a Titus Bramble-esque mistake.

The type of defender who looks like copes with big men, I think he may struggle to deal with the experience of Jon Parkin.

He works well when next to an experienced head, but this will be a tough test for him. If he gets off to a good start, he could keep Parkin in his pocket, but he need large packets to achieve that.

Morgan has clearly developed into a consistent and imposing centre half under the tutelage of Billy Davies. However, I think he probably has weaknesses which can be exposed.

Whether or not PNE will be able to do that, we'll have to see, but I'm going to give this one to St Ledger.

He is an excellent young defender who is committed in his own area and a threat from set-pieces at the other end. North End are a worse side without him, as they might be next season. For now though, he continues to be a real asset.


Richard Chaplow (PNE)

Chaplow suffers from a problem I've seen in a huge number of Preston midfielders over the years. I call it Etuhu Syndrome.

Dickson Etuhu was very poor for us, despite his obvious physical prowess. Often he'd go missing in games and would be utterly frustrating.

Etuhu, of course, just scored against Juventus in midweek. Such is his enigma.

Chaplow's come down with a bad case of Etuhu and can best be described as a headless chicken.

There's plenty of endeavour, but little end product. His closing-down skills are evident, but when he actually wins the ball it's obvious he doesn't know what to do with it. He's a bit like me, really.

Radoslaw Majewski

It's a shame Paul McKenna is unable to play at Deepdale. He reacted so well when he scored the goal at the City Ground that I'm sure the PNE faithful would have given him the round of applause he so thoroughly deserves.

Should Majewski start then he needs to be high tempo and aggressive. He's got the skills and ability in his arsenal but his transfer worries seem to have got on top of him.

He's a better player than Richard Chaplow without a doubt, but does he have the mental fortitude to deal with his opponent's experience?

This is a very difficult call, as both players appear to be erratic. Is Majewski really going to be up for the fight he will get from the Preston midfield? Is he as effective on the road when Forest need to dig in?

Can Chaplow actually step up to the plate and perform like he can though? Will he be suffocated out of the match by Forest and his attacking threat become minimal?

Purely because of the fact that I can see him having a greater impact if his side is to win the match, I would go for Majewski.

Ross Wallace

I firmly believe that Ross Wallace is one of the best players in the division.

When you see him run with the ball, it's a joy to watch. He's quick, nimble and skillful. He does suffer from getting easily disheartened, however, which is a serious flaw in his game.

I often think he considers himself above the club, and he's right. He's way too talented for Preston and I almost feel sorry for him playing at this level.

As a free-kick taker, there isn't a better one in the division. Simple as that.

Paul Anderson

The former Liverpool winger has settled quickly into the team and is proving to be a real bargain at £250K.

After a superb start to the season where he was one of the stand-out players in a stand-out team, his performances have dropped of late.

However, his blistering pace and ability to take on full-backs gives Billy Davies a serious weapon at his disposal.

If this lad is on form then the PNE defence will be in for a long afternoon.

Both of these players are explosive wide men who, when they're on their game, are serious threats going forward for their respective sides.

I think Anderson could have a brighter future than Wallace but, at the moment, as happens with young players, they can go through a spell where they're not as good.

For that reason, I'm going to go for PNE's set-piece wizard Wallace. If Preston are to beat Forest, they need him playing in his proper position and playing well.


Jon Parkin (PNE)

Neil Mellor is a fantastic player if you're talking about reserve games. He can score prodigiously in the reserves.

Put him in the reserves and he'll score a million, put him in the first team and he'll look like a fat waster.

Parkin, on the other hand, is one of my favourite players of all time.

He's massively fat, but incredibly talented - like an obese Peter Crouch.

Technically you won't see many strikers better than him - which people don't realise because they're hung up on his physique. He's a secret weapon, and perfectly cut out for this division.

Dexter Blackstock

Should make Sean St. Ledger look ordinary. This guy is a class act up top: strong, fast(ish), good finisher, and good link-up player.

He has had a good first season as fully-fledged Forest player and he should keep leading the line all the way 'til the end of the season.

Billy Davies has a tendency to play Dele Adebola up top away from home, but think he needs to go with his main striker. The Saint will have a tough time at keeping Big Dex quiet.

He hasn't been in the best goalscoring form over the last month or so, but I reckon he will score this time around - and that's a fact.

I think Jon Parkin is one of the most underrated strikers in the Football League. It seems he's a figure of fun because of his build, but you just can't argue with his goals record.

Not only that, but he is great if you need to play the ball long, and can be an asset physically when defending your own box too.

Blackstock is a talented young striker, but I don't think he's as important to Forest as Parkin is to North End. I'd also back the big man to be more likely to find the net. So I'm going for Parkin in this head-to-head.


Darren Ferguson (PNE)

The jury's out. Capturing players like Welbeck is all well and good, but not unexpected when you're the son of a Premier League manager.

Ferguson's "free scoring" attitude is naive given the players we have at our disposal.

The "we'll score one more than you" philosophy is great if you have free-scoring players, but we don't and aren't likely to have anytime soon.
I think Ferguson has potential as a figurehead in attracting the right sort of players, but unfortunately seems tactically naive and has fallen into management rather than deserved it.

Billy Davies

I don't think this should even be a competition. Billy has a proven track record in the Championship.

He got Derby promoted with a distinctly mediocre team and he constantly got PNE punching above their weight when he was in charge of the Lancashire club.

Now he has a bit of money at his disposal and he has got Forest competing at the top end of the table with the likes of Newcastle and West Brom.

His tactics are spot-on throughout the game and he gets the team to play a variety of football depending on the opposition. Ferguson isn't fit to polish Davies's shoes.

Oh come on! This is Soccer AM/MW, we'd have BD's babies if that was possible.

A great man motivator, meticulous in his preparation, and tactically astute. He can set up teams to nick a 1-0 win or crush a team by a few goals. He makes good substitutions and he knows to rile opposition teams and managers too.

His opposite number, for my money, is one of the weakest managers in his division. He has BD's arrogance, but without any justification for being so. Davies all the way.

Final score: PNE 3 Forest 3

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