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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Big Match Preview

Preston North End vs. Nottingham Forest
Saturday January 8, 15:00, Deepdale

So, after my now notorious broadside levelled at how the magic of the Cup was dying, the draw for the third round went and handed Soccer AM/MW a real treat.

The prospect of a clash between Preston and Forest is one that gets the whole team here pretty excited - not least because the chances of such a match occurring next season is becoming increasingly less likely. Cheers Darren.

Still, we might as well enjoy this one while it's here as North End and Forest prepare to do battle for the second time this season.

The pair have already met at Deepdale in the Championship - Forest running out 2-1 victors back in September to register their first away of the campaign.

That's one of eight home defeats Preston have suffered as the Darren Ferguson regime managed to systematically dismantle Fortress Deepdale and convert it into the home of some kind of philanthropists. Come round for a game - and make sure you take all three points with you when you leave.

Mind you, league form can go out of the window at this time of the season. Indeed, 12 months ago after a poor run of form led to the bizarre sacking of Alan Irvine, North End thumped Colchester 7-0 in the third round.

That was under the caretaker charge of Rob Kelly and, after Fergie Junior's long-overdue departure, Preston have been under temporary control - this time with David Unsworth in the dugout.

He began his reign with a defeats to Derby and Crystal Palace, although the former Everton man may well have relinquished to an as yet unknown full time manager before the weekend.

Preston's chances of survival were dealt a huge blow this month by the departure to Cardiff of burly striker Jon Parkin, whose cumbersome build ensures he's the only professional footballer who can gorge himself silly over the Festive season and nobody will bat an eyelid.

He was their top scorer with seven and his leaving may well have provided the final nail in PNE's Championship coffin.

The striking burden now falls on Chris Brown, who you may remember from such movies as "The Great Escape: PNE 2007/8," and that Sunderland sex tape. Unfortunately, his scoring record on the pitch is not as good off it - he's yet to register a single goal this term. Reasons to be fearful.

Wide man Keith Treacy, one of the few positives of the Desperate Darren era, has been one stand out performer for the team this season. Much-travelled Canadian striker Iain Hume has also signed permanently from Barnsley after a fruitful loan spell.

The outspoken Billy Davies continues to cast a shadow over former club Preston

In his, and North End's, way stand a Nottingham Forest side managed expertly by ex-Preston boss, Billy Davies.

It's fair to say we love the wee little Scot here at Soccer AM/MW. However, whenever he returns to Deepdale with a team it's the kind of occasion which seems to require the music from The Apprentice, you know the one, to proceed it.

Billy seems to rub some Preston fans up the wrong way. Perhaps it's the fact he likes to claim he's the best PNE manager in modern times. Mind you, I wouldn't disagree with him. However, he seems to revel in the role of the pantomime villain.

The truth, too, is that North End fans would carry him back from the East Midlands if he said he would return to Deepdale - although when asked about links to the vacant post on Monday he declined to comment.

In the Championship, he's arguably the best manager around, and he's working his magic at Forest again - with them sitting on the edge of the top six.

Forest are unbeaten at home since around the time the dinosaurs roamed earth and away from the City Ground they provide resolute and obstinate opponents - albeit wins have been hard to come by.

Things are looking up for the club all round, with months of pre and post match moaning from Davies finally bearing fruit with the permanent capture of
forward Marcus Tudgay from Sheffield Wednesday after a promising loan spell.

Their recent form has been decent too - thumping local rivals Derby 5-2, then recovering from two goals down to draw with Barnsley. They then followed that up with a win and clean sheet at Ipswich. Reasons to be cheerful.

You never do know when it comes to the Cup though. It can sometimes just come down to who wants it more on the day. Do either side even want a Cup run when they have much bigger fish to fry in the league?

I'm tempted to go for the upset in this one, but Preston are a side so short on confidence and quality that I just can't see it happening. Unless Billy decides to throw the game and stick out Forest's youth team.

For a man with such an ego that he only refers to himself in the third person though, I can't see him wanting to ever go back to a former club and losing - so he probably won't.

Nobes' Prediction: Preston North End 0 Nottingham Forest 2

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