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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Big Match Preview

Preston North End vs. Portsmouth
Saturday August 21, 15:00, Deepdale

Two sides hoping to kick start their season meet in Lancashire this weekend as Preston and Portsmouth go in search of their first three points of the new campaign.

It's too early to be speaking of the match as a relegation six pointer, but with it pitting the teams in 24th and 21st against one another, both will be keen to ensure they're not at the wrong end for too much longer.

The home side have got off to a shocking start to the season under Darren Ferguson. After two games they remain the only team in the Championship yet to secure a point.

They're also the only team who haven't found the back of the net in the division - both statistics Ferguson will hope to rectify on Saturday afternoon.

The manager is already under pressure - particularly after the shambolic 4-0 defeat to Swansea last week where North End put in a feeble performance.

That followed a 2-0 opening day loss to Doncaster at Deepdale - which has led to the manager downgrading his pre-season optimism into talk of a difficult campaign for Preston.

It was a summer of huge upheaval in the North West as the club survived a winding up order and then shipped out many of last season's players as Ferguson looked to re-shape his squad.

That's seen the likes of striker Paul Hayes and defenders Wayne Brown and Craig Morgan brought into the PNE ranks.

The manager will also hope to welcome the likes of key defender Sean St Ledger and midfielder Paul Coutts back into the team after injury for the visit of Pompey.

Preston have endured a miserable run under Darren Ferguson's watch

If Preston feel they have had problems over the summer, then they pale into insignificance compared to the much-publicised troubles of their South Coast opponents.

Survival off the pitch, not on it, was the issue occupying the minds of Portsmouth supporters during the close season as the relegated top flight club faced up to their mammoth debts.

Indeed, they were unsure whether they'd survive a High Court date with the HMRC - unhappy at the club's proposals to exit administration and the arrangement of their CVA.

With that battle now won, the mission for new boss Steve Cotterill is to get things right on the pitch at Fratton Park.

However, they've just a single point to their name so far, with an opening day defeat at Coventry followed by conceding a last gasp equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Reading.

The manager was pleased with the effort shown by his charges, however, and Portsmouth will travel with confidence that they can return from Deepdale with something to show for their efforts.

Much attention will focus on the return of former Preston striker David Nugent, who enjoyed a fruitful spell with North End before making the move to Pompey.

He spearheads a first XI which, with the likes of Aaron Mokoena, Ibrahima Sonko, Michael Brown, and Hayden Mullins, has a solid and experienced spine to it.

Cotterill, as his way, will no doubt have his team well organised and very competitive and they will hope to frustrate a Preston team badly in need of a confidence boost.

If they can withstand the home team's attacking style then they have the quality to take advantage of Preston's suspect back line and take all three points back to Hampshire with them.

Nobes' Prediction: Preston North End 0 Portsmouth 1

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