Four matches will be played in the Championship table on the opening day of July and we begin at Deepdale where Preston North End host Derby County from 17:00 GMT. This fixture will be played behind closed doors but will be shown live on TV for armchair fans to enjoy and with both sides chasing a top-six finish and the playoff place that goes with it, an entertaining 90 minutes awaits.
This will be the second match of the season involving these sides following Derby County’s narrow 1-0 success at Pride Park back in November. Waghorn scored the only goal of the game that day to settle a nervy encounter and the Rams will be out for more of the same. Victory would not only see Derby do the double over Preston; it would improve their chances of making the playoffs.
The rivals enter game 40 of the 2019/29 campaign level on points, three behind Cardiff City and the top six. Derby are the form side of the two and arrive in town with an eye-catching winning streak behind them. Confidence will be sky high in the away dressing room, but will they use that to secure a vital three points and leapfrog their hosts?
Preston struggling for form
Preston North End sit seventh in the Championship table after 39 games. Their season stats read 16 wins and 9 draws against 14 defeats, scoring 52 goals and conceding 49. The Lilywhites have scored the same number of goals as Nottingham Forest up in fourth but conceded nine more than the Tricky Trees. 57 points on the board means Alex Neil’s men are in the thick of a battle to secure a promotion playoff place but their poor recent form threatens to derail their season. PNE are involved nine other clubs with a realistic chance of finishing between third and sixth to extend their season by entering the playoffs.
The hosts prepare for this match having taken just one of the last 15 league points available to them. Their past five results show lose, lose, lose, draw, lose and that’s a miserable run that will have everyone connected to the Deepdale club in a state of panic. They returned from lockdown with a disappointing draw away to relegation-threatened Luton Town, ending 1-1 with The Hatters. It was a match they were expected to win, given their opponent’s troubles, but a Sinclair goal on 52 minutes was cancelled out by a late equaliser from McManaman. A blow, but things were to get worse.
Preston were last in action when hosting promotion rivals Cardiff City at the weekend. Johnson scored for PNE that day, but his effort wasn’t enough to secure the points, the Bluebirds flying back to Wales with victory thanks to goals from Ralls, Mendez-Laing and Glatzel. All four goals were scored in the last 20 minutes that day. Another late collapse by Preston and that’s something manager Neil must address before it leaves his dreams of Premier League football in tatters.
Derby on a four-game winning run
Derby enter this match level on points with their hosts but are one place lower in the table due to goal difference, just one goal parting the rivals at present. The Rams have won 15 games so far, drawing 12 and losing 12, scoring 54 goals and conceding 52. They have three points to find to match Cardiff City and the top six so make this trip knowing the right set of results could transform their season. This is a crucial fixture in the campaign of Derby County and if they fail to make it count they may look back at game 40 as the one that wrecked their season, leaving them to face another campaign in the second flight of English football.
Phillip Cocu’s men do travel with confidence in the ranks, however, and bring with them a four-game unbeaten run. That purple patch began on Saturday 29 February when bouncing back from defeat to claim an impressive 3-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday away from home. That seemed to provide the squad with a much-needed confidence boost, and they went into lockdown celebrating a strong win over Blackburn Rovers, easing to a 3-0 success at Pride Park on 8 March. Derby didn’t reappear until 20 June but picked up where they left off, edging Millwall 3-2 at The Den to keep their winning run alive. Winning at Millwall is no mean feat but Derby were good value for the points that day.
The Rams were last seen beating Reading at Pride Park on Saturday, clinching the points thanks to a 2-1 final score. In a fascinating contest that gave us three goals and two red cards, Lawrence broke the deadlock just before half-time with a goal on 44 minutes and Rooney doubled up from the penalty spot in added-on time. Rinomhota hit one back on the hour mark to force a nervy finish to the match. It all boiled over at the end, both Lawrence and Miazga sent off on 95 minutes.
Preston vs Derby prediction
There is little between the sides in the table at present but that should all change at the end of this match. Both clubs will fancy their chances of claiming three points and that could make for a fascinating contest with plenty of goal scoring opportunities. Preston enjoy home advantage, but their recent form is poor, and they appear to be going backwards.
Derby still have it all to do but fans are excited to see the Rams driving towards the promotion places with a late attack. A four-game winning run has them in a fantastic position and there is confidence running right through the squad. They’ll get nothing easy at Deepdale, but confidence and momentum could prove the difference between two evenly matched sides.
Preston seem to be odds favourites to win the match, considering the betting market, and backers can get their hands on 29/20. Derby County to win a fifth game on the bounce is 39/20 or there’s 23/10 for the draw.